Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific bans shark fins

Channel NewsAsia 22 Jun 16;

HONG KONG: Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific said Wednesday (Jun 22) it will ban carrying shark fins and products on all its flights, a victory for conservationists concerned for endangered species of the predator.

The southern Chinese city is one of the world's biggest markets for shark fin, which is viewed by many Asians as a delicacy, often served as a soup at expensive Chinese banquets.

Animal rights campaigners have been pushing Cathay for a carriage ban on shark fins for years. Other airlines including Thai Airways and Philippine Airlines banned the item in recent years.

"On the issue of shark's fin, with immediate effect we are happy to agree to ban the carriage," Cathay Pacific said in its statement.

The airline confirmed to AFP that the ban extended to all shark products on both cargo and passenger flights.

In its statement, the airline also announced that it has not approved any shipments for shark's fin in the past year, since it instituted a policy that any requests for such shipments must be assessed by an external panel of acknowledged experts.

The policy had been slammed by activists, though the airline said it was "agreed with two highly respected international shark conservation agencies".

"Based on our procedure for assessing whether shark products are sustainably sourced, we have rejected all 15 shipment requests for shark-related products in the last 12 months," said Cathay Pacific.

Marine conservationists praised Cathay on its decision, with one saying that it would make the city "proud".

"It's high time that Cathay took the stand. It would make Hong Kong people proud," Hong Kong-based Aquameridien conservation foundation executive director Sharon Kwok told AFP.

"More Hong Kong businesses need to follow the lead," said Kwok, who has been pushing for the ban for years.

Hong Kong's government in 2013 said it would stop serving shark fin at official functions as "a good example", following years of lobbying by conservation groups.

Environmental group WWF said 457 tonnes of shark products were imported into Hong Kong by air in 2015, a 31 percent drop from 2014.

More than 70 million sharks are killed every year, according to the WWF. Huge quantities are exported annually to Hong Kong, and most of those fins are then sent on to mainland China.

- CNA/AFP/hs

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