Air New Zealand has followed Cathay Pacific's example and stopped carrying shark fin after environmental campaigners discovered the airline was flying the cargo to Hong Kong.
The airline - which prides itself on its image as an environmentally conscious carrier - took the step after admitting to bringing at least two cargoes of shark fin sourced from Fiji to Hong Kong in the past eight months.
However, Air New Zealand insisted the shark fin flown to Hong Kong since October was by-product and had not been obtained by the brutal practice of finning, in which fins are sliced off and the sharks left to die.
Pressure group the New Zealand Shark Alliance alerted the South China Morning Post to the fact that the Auckland-based carrier was sending shark fin to Hong Kong.
The group said it wanted the carrier to follow the lead of Cathay Pacific, which last September halted shipments of shark fin following a sustained lobbying campaign by environmentalists.
Approached by the newspaper about the campaign, airline spokesman Andrew Aitken said yesterday: "Air New Zealand has taken the decision to suspend immediately the carriage of shark fins while we undertake a review of the issue."
Katrina Subedar of the New Zealand Shark Alliance said: "We are really happy about this. It is definitely a positive move and we are hoping to continue to work with the airline through the review and make it permanent."
Subedar said the airline, which flies daily to Hong Kong, took an internal decision in 2012 to stop carrying what it classed as unsustainable shark fin, but "were still transporting shark fin and we wanted them, as our national airline, to go further", she said.
Air New Zealand is the third major airline to be exposed by environmental campaigners for carrying shark fin into Hong Kong.
Fiji-based carrier Air Pacific - to be renamed Fiji Airways next month - was earlier this month revealed to be carrying shark fin as cargo on its direct flights between Nadi and Hong Kong despite sponsoring a contest in Hong Kong for shark fin-free wedding banquets and giving the winning couple honeymoon flights to Fiji.
Air Pacific said on May 13 it was "investigating the issues" raised by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, which discovered its shark fin cargoes, and said it would "respond to them shortly".
Foundation director Alex Hofford called the decision by Air New Zealand "unexpected, but a great result" and said he hoped it would lead to more airlines banning shark fin cargo.
"This is very good news and we are delighted that Air New Zealand is following in the footsteps of Cathay Pacific and doing the right thing," Hofford said.
"We hope that Air Pacific will quickly follow suit and leave their bad, old habits behind as they adopt their new brand."