Philippine Airlines has joined a growing number of carriers refusing to transport shark fins after a report by conservation groups that the airline had brought a 6.8-tonne shipment from Dubai to Hong Kong.
"It's a total stop," spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna told the South China Morning Post yesterday. "We are stopping the shipments on all fronts ... not just to Hong Kong."
The airline said the decision - hailed by a campaigner as a victory for sharks - was made "in support of its commitment to sustainable development".
Conservation group WildLifeRisk and ocean-advocacy group Fins Attached said on April 16 they had found 136 bags, each with 50kg of dried shark fins, "freshly arrived from Dubai" on Philippine Airlines.
"Obviously we're delighted that Philippine Airlines has seen fit to turn its back on the dirty shark fin trade by joining a growing family of airlines that take their corporate social responsibilities seriously," WildLifeRisk director Alex Hofford said last night.
"It's another victory for the sharks and we hope that other regional carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways will quickly follow."
Hofford said his group had called the Philippine flag carrier's attention to its shipments of "illegal, unregulated, and unreported fish, shark and shark products" in a letter in August last year, but had received no reply.
The Hong Kong consignment had been shipped from Dubai agent International Maritime and Aviation to dried seafood trader Global Marine. The company denied the Dubai shipment was illegal.
Villaluna said after the shipment was found that the airline could not comment because its president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang was abroad.
Yesterday it issued a statement saying it "will formalise and strengthen a freight policy it has recently adopted to stop the shipment of shark fin".
It said it would circulate a policy for "immediate implementation and strict compliance across the organisation", adding: "PAL takes the issue of protection and conservation of endangered marine life seriously."
At least five airlines have followed Cathay Pacific's lead in restricting or banning shark fin shipments over the last two years. Korean, Asiana, Qantas and Air New Zealand enforce a blanket ban; Fiji-based Air Pacific allows fins from sustainable sources.