Monday, August 1, 2016

CATHAY PACIFIC Plays Hardball Againts Transporting SHARK FIN

The struggle of concerned environmentalists and animal rights advocates in curbing the mass killing of sharks for their fins to make shark-fin soup in China gained a significant breakthrough on June 23, when Hong Kong-based air carrier Cathay Pacific announced a complete ban on shipping shark fins via their cargo services, according to a BBC report. It was a move long awaited and eagerly welcomed by conservationists the world over.

Originally, the airline’s official stance was to only allow the transport of shark fin that had been verified as harvested from a sustainable source, and only in shipments of a single digit of tons. This approach was more lenient compared to the blanket bans of shark fin such as Qantas, British Airways, American Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Air New Zealand. It was therefore lambasted by wildlife campaigners who called their campaign an impossible “empty promise”.

The official statement of Cathay Pacific announcing the ban stated that the airline was happy to carry it out, to address the issue of shark fin harvesting.

Estimates by National Geographic project that about 100 million sharks are killed every year – caught by harvesters who tear their fins off and throw them back in the water to drown – all to meet the ever growing cultural demand by Chinese consumers for shark fin soup, a unique traditional delicacy that tastes like bean sprouts, usually served on special occasions such as weddings. Shark fins, valued at $100 by the pound, are dried in the sun after harvesting, after which they can be kept in cold storage for several years on end.

Cathay Pacific has reported that they have turned down at least 15 requests from companies wishing to transport fins. For the moment the ban applies to shark fin being transported as whole cargo, not other shark products, but the airline promises to continually review its policy. 

Marine life activists were positive of Cathay's more determined position, with a native Hong Kong advocate claiming the move made all of Hong Kong "proud" . The South China Morning Post cited government analyses that shark fin imports to Hong Kong have dropped 42% (5,717 tons) from 2010 to 2015. A significant decline in air importation of fins was noted.

An international anti shark fin campaign was initiated by California-based group WildAid since 2006 and has boasted celebrity advocates such as Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming and film superstar Jackie Chan. Some scientists however are concerned that the harvest of shark fins have only become more discrete, likely to continue until the fishes are driven to extinction.

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