Shark Fin Ban

Shark Fin Ban

23 June, 2016
Cathay Pacific
Faced with pressure from green groups, airline updates policy to full ban
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After facing continued pressure from various wildlife groups and the public, Cathay Pacific has announced a complete ban on the carriage of shark fin.
 
In 2012, Cathay was one of the first airlines to introduce a ban on the carriage of shark and shark-related products, unless it could be proven that that they were from sustainable sources. It left this door open under expert advice that doing so would provide an incentive for shark fisheries to move towards sustainable management, and the move was widely praised at the time.
 
According to the original statement, “Under the airline’s new restrictive carriage policy, it will only accept shipments when shippers provide proof that the products to be shipped are independently verified sustainable shark and shark-related products.” Each shipment request was to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the policy was implemented officially in mid-2015.
 
More recently, however, some have questioned the policy’s strength, and Cathay has faced pressure and criticism - especially as other airlines began to impose outright bans on shark products. In May 2016, protestors staged a sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport to protest Cathay’s controversial policy. Protesters wore shark suits, carried posters and slogans.
 
Why the controversy? Scientists say that blanket-banning removes incentive for fisheries to improve their practices, and may create more demand on the black market for less scrupulous suppliers. Experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group supported Cathay’s progressive policy in a letter, recently published in the South China Morning Post, saying that the decision is aligned with evidence of sustainable shark fisheries. The letter highlights that sustainable fisheries for sharks already exist in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. On the other side of the debate, green groups feel that leaving any opening for the potential trade of shark products is concerning, given the fragility of many shark populations.
 
In a statement released this week, Cathay said that they have not allowed any shipment requests for shark-related products in the past year, and has not been carrying shark fin, based on the existing policy. However, due to the continued pressure for a blanket ban,  the airline said that they will now adhere to an outright ban on the carriage of shark fin, effective immediately.
 
While Cathay has not carried any shark fin or shark related products in the past year, implementing an outright ban has removed any confusion on the issue. The ban does not extend to other shark-related products, which, if proven to be sustainably sourced, could still be considered for transport, thus incentivising fisheries to continue striving for better, sustainable management.
 
Overfishing and loss of habitat has pushed 25 per cent of shark and ray species to risk of extinction. Any move to protect and stop the trading of endangered species is another step to improving the conservation of our oceans and planet, and Cathay Pacific and others who are creating policies regarding the transport of unsustainable and illegal wildlife products have great responsibility in setting important precedents for their industries.

By: Ecozine Staff
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