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Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong airlines Cathay Pacific and Dragonair impose total ban on carriage of shark fin

The two carriers came under increasing pressure from conservationists after they pledged in 2012 to carry fins only from sustainable sources

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 6:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 June, 2016, 9:17am

Hong Kong’s flagship airline has finally bowed to public pressure by slapping a blanket ban on shark fin being carried on any of its planes.

But Cathay Pacific, the city’s biggest carrier, and its sister ­airline Dragonair have left the door open to a possible U-turn by saying the new policy will be ­subject to review.

The move – which will take ­effect immediately – comes after budget airline HK Express became the first local carrier to axe shark fin shipments last month.

Cathay has faced sustained pressure from environmentalists, including protests at their check-in desks at Hong Kong International Airport and children petitioning airline executives.

“We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Cathay Pacific’s overall sustainable development goals,” Cathay said in a statement.

“Therefore, on the issue of shark fin, with immediate effect we are happy to agree to ban the carriage. We will continue to review this practice, as we do all our sustainable development policies.”

Previously, Cathay chose not to impose an outright ban but instead set up a panel of experts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether each shipment was from a sustainable source.

The policy dates back to 2012, but since then three dozen airlines have gone one step further to implement an outright ban, leaving Cathay exposed to criticism. Campaigners argue it is often impossible to verify whether cargo is sustainable or not.

The old policy was described by the airline as “a more challenging approach than an outright ban”.

Cathay said the criticism was unwarranted as it was one of the first airlines to raise awareness of the unsustainability of the global shark fin trade back in 2012.

The government says shark fin imports to Hong Kong dropped by 42 per cent between 2010 and last year to reach 5,717 tonnes. During this period there was also a 72 per cent drop in imports by air to 450 tonnes.

Cathay and Dragonair join British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates in banning shark fin.

Alex Hofford, wildlife campaigner for WildAid, said: “A responsible corporation like Cathay Pacific should never be seen to be a link in the supply chain for a criminal trade. That’s why we are so happy that Cathay has done the right thing by no longer carrying any shark fin or shark products. Shipping sharks by air is not just an issue of sustainability, but ethics and legality.”

Only Hong Kong Airlines has yet to establish a position on shark fins.