Cathay Pacific’s shark fin carriage policy is backed by experts

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 June, 2016, 12:17am

Sharks face the greatest challenge of their 400-million-year history as humans place increasing pressure on their populations, primarily through fishing, but also habitat loss and pollution. Knowing that 25 per cent of the approximately 1,200 shark and ray species have an elevated risk of extinction, conservation efforts have increased to bring threatened populations back from the brink.

One of the keys to long-term success in shark conservation is to ensure sustainable fishing. A 10-year plan to save sharks, developed recently by some of the world’s leading conservation groups (http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?261570/New-global-strategy-to-save-sharks...) has sustainable fishing as one of its key components.

Some vocal conservation advocates argue that sustainable shark fishing is not possible. This is an uninformed belief. One only needs to examine fishery status reports from the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada for evidence. All these countries have documented sustainable fisheries for sharks.

Sustainable shark fishing is important because sharks provide an important source of animal protein in many nations. Moving towards sustainable fishing not only addresses the extinction crisis for sharks but also ensures an ongoing role in food security for tens of millions of people.

The Cathay Pacific shark fin carriage policy is an example of responsible stewardship that promotes sustainable shark fishing. Cathay Pacific’s policy is backed by specialist advice from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) shark specialist group and TRAFFIC to ensure it is informed by the best available scientific knowledge. This information is provided free of charge because we see Cathay Pacific’s stance for what it is – a path to the future of sustainable sharks fisheries.

Airline bans on the carriage of shark fins will prevent the transportation of unsustainable products to destination countries, but are unlikely to stop sharks from being caught, either because of demand for meat or because they are caught incidentally in fisheries that catch many other species.

There remain great challenges to averting the crisis. However, there is no silver bullet that will solve the problem of collapsing shark populations. Instead, strategies acknowledging the complexity of the challenges, that (i) provide incentives for responsible fishing, trade and consumption and, (ii) strictly protect the most endangered species, will lead to a return of shark populations from the brink of extinction.

Professor Colin Simpfendorfer, co-chair, IUCN shark specialist group, James Cook University, Australia; Professor Nick Dulvy, co-chair, IUCN shark specialist group, Simon Fraser University, Canada