Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific slammed over ‘sustainable’ shark fin policy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 January, 2016, 2:10am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 January, 2016, 2:10am

Cathay Pacific has angered wildlife campaigners by deciding to continue to carry shark fin, more than three years after declaring a partial ban on the controversial cargo.

The airline has decided not to impose an outright ban similar to those introduced by other carriers and has instead set up an external panel of experts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether each shipment is from a sustainable source.

Sustainable sources of shark fin are seen as fisheries where the whole shark is landed and fins exported as a by-product as opposed to the brutal practice of finning where sharks have their fins cut off and are then left to die.

The airline’s decision has been slammed by anti-shark fin campaigners who say the shark fin industry is so unregulated it is impossible in many cases to verify whether cargoes are sustainable or not.

In a statement, a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman confirmed the airline was continuing to carry shark fin although she stressed shipment volumes were “minimal” last year and in “single-digit tonnes compared with a few hundred back in 2011”.

Cathay Pacific was praised by green groups in 2012 for announcing a ban on unsustainable shark fin and a review of its carriage of any shark fin product, saying the cargo was “inconsistent with our commitment to sustainable development”.

Other airlines including Qantas and Air New Zealand announced blanket bans on shark fin in the same year after concluding it was not possible to distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable sources.

However, Cathay Pacific said it had now decided it was “feasible to evaluate the sustainability of shark products and fisheries based on principles and guidelines founded upon existing international legislation and agreements”, the spokeswoman said, adding: “A blanket ban would not achieve this.”

The airline wanted to “acknowledge the good work that has been done to accredit certain fisheries for implementing sustainable fishing practice, such as that of the Marine Stewardship Council”, said the spokeswoman.

“We also wanted to consider the work done by some regions that have taken steps to implement a range of shark management measures in their jurisdictions,” she said.

Cathay Pacific has set up a mechanism whereby an external panel of experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC evaluate requests to ship shark fin on a case-by-case basis.

“The decision on accepting the shipment or not is based upon the assessment report produced by the IUCN/TRAFFIC experts in accordance with the sustainability of the species,” the spokeswoman said.

No requests to transport shark fin had been approved since the new procedures were put in place, the spokeswoman added.

Ran Elfassy, director of Shark Rescue, said Cathay Pacific was out of step with other airlines and said the setting up of the panel showed the airline’s pledge to stop carrying unsustainable shark fin in 2012 was a “bogus promise”.

Alex Hofford, of the NGO WildAid, said: “Cathay Pacific is taking ill-advised counsel from a small group of people from IUCN and TRAFFIC who think the shark fin problem can be solved simply by the implementation of effective fisheries management.

Hofford added that even the single digit tonnes transported by Cathay Pacific represented “the needless death of tens of thousands of sharks”.