Two more national airlines join ban on shark fin cargo

Air New Zealand slaps on total embargo while Qantas will allow fins from 'sustainable sources'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 5:21am

Qantas yesterday announced a partial ban on shark fin on its planes and Air New Zealand a total ban in significant new victories for a Hong Kong coalition fighting to block the controversial cargo.

The Australian national carrier said it would in future only carry shark fin from so-called sustainable sources, while the New Zealand national carrier said it had decided to ban all shark fin, partly because of the difficulty in defining sustainable shark fin.

The announcements came a day after Fiji's national airline Fiji Airways - renamed from Air Pacific this month - said it would carry shark fin from sustainable sources only. Cathay Pacific brought in a similar partial ban last year.

A year-long campaign by some 60 environmental groups in Hong Kong to stop shark fin being flown into the city has led to a succession of airlines announcing partial or total bans on the product.

Qantas spokesman Thomas Woodward told the South China Morning Post that the airline had decided to carry shark fin only in cases when there was "appropriate documentation" to show it came from a sustainable source.

"We share the widely held concerns over shark finning and we've updated our policy to ensure we no longer carry such products on our flights," he said.

Woodward said he was unable to say how much shark fin Qantas previously carried to Hong Kong and other destinations but an airline source insisted: "Relatively speaking, it would have only been an extremely small amount."

Air New Zealand, meanwhile, announced a blanket ban. The airline had suspended shark fin shipments back in May pending a review after it was found by campaigners to have transported two cargo-loads of Fiji-sourced shark fin to Hong Kong in recent months.

Spokesman Andrew Aitken said: "Given the small quantity that is offered for carriage and the difficulty of confirming whether the source is sustainable or not, the decision has been taken to no longer accept shark fin for carriage.

"Consideration was given to continuing to carry sustainably harvested shark fin. However, the volume of work that would be involved in verifying and monitoring the sources would make it uneconomic."

Air New Zealand's total ban was hailed as an example for other carriers to follow by Alex Hofford, executive director of MyOcean and instigator of the campaign to stop shark fin arriving in Hong Kong by plane.

"We find it truly wonderful that this airline is taking its commitment to the marine environment seriously and treating passengers with the respect they deserve," he said.

"This unequivocal decision is in stark contrast to the wishy-washy partial bans that other airlines are trying to hide behind. The simple truth is that all shark fin is unsustainable.

"The Marine Stewardship Council, the world's biggest sustainable fish certification body, has to this date refused to certify any fishery involved with shark finning," Hofford added.

Fiji Airways, which has twice-weekly direct flights to Hong Kong, declined to say how it planned to distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable shark fin. However, a spokeswoman said: "We won't carry shark fins until we're confident we have an independent, verifiable process."

Hong Kong is a major hub for the global shark fin industry. Data from the Census and Statistics Department showed that 83 countries or territories supplied more than 10,300 tonnes of shark fin products to the city last year.

An estimated 72 million sharks are killed every year and 10,000 tonnes of fins - which sell for about HK$3,500 per pound on average - are traded through Hong Kong, green groups say. About 10 per cent of the global trade in shark fin is by air.