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Shark fin cargo banned by three more airlines

New Zealand News.Net - Wednesday 26th June, 2013

SEOUL - Three more Asia-Pacific based airlines have announced plans to ban shark's fin cargo from their flights.

Fiji's national carrier and South Korea's Asiana and Korean Air are the latest to promise plans to halt shipments of shark fin and shark-related products from unsustainable and unverified sources, reports CNN.

Acting CEO of Air Pacific -- soon to rebrand as Fiji Airways -- says the move is the result of a month-long review of its freight policies relating to shark products.

"We believe a ban on the shipment of unsustainably sourced shark fins is the right thing to do, and have implemented this policy effective immediately," Aubrey Swift said in a statement released Monday.

"We will now work with conservation partners and the fishing industry to prepare and implement policies and processes that will ensure future shipments are sustainably sourced."

Korean Air made its announcement of the change in policy last week.

"Previously, Korean Air carried shark fin only under the condition that a valid CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit was fully obtained by the customer from the related national management authority," the airline said in a statement.

"However, recently there has been a series of global movements calling to ban the carriage of shark fins. In view of these movements and in order to support the global call of protecting endangered shark species, Korean Air has recently reviewed its policy to stop the carriage of shark fins."

Lee Hyomin, a spokesman from Korean Air rival Asiana, told CNN the airline has already banned shark fins from its flights as well.

The announcement by Air Pacific -- which in two days will officially relaunch as Fiji Airways -- comes in the wake of criticism of its earlier shark fin shipments to Hong Kong, the world's biggest market for the controversial product.

Campaigns highlighting the cruelty and devastation stemming from the practice continue to gather pace in the region. Approximately 72 million sharks are killed each year and 10,000 tons of fins are traded through Hong Kong.

"Bans such as the ones taken by the airlines are an important step in the right direction," Ran Elfassy, director of Hong Kong-based Shark Rescue, told CNN.

"The supply chain of shark products involves many players and the chances are good that traders will move to other carriers. But each disruption adds inefficiency and added cost to the transport, hopefully adding strong pressure to end the trade."

Prominent hotels and restaurants in the city have been publicly striking off shark fin from their menus, while Hong Kong's main carrier Cathay Pacific also announced a ban on shark's fin cargo last September.

Shark Rescue's Elfassy says the impact of these large companies stepping up to ban shark fin is huge.

"When hotels like the Peninsula or airlines like Cathay Pacific take a stand to do what's right, it sends a message that being socially responsible is good business," he says.

"It also means these organizations who reach millions of customers every year can be major contributors for doing good. Moreover, it validates what the grassroots groups have been saying all along."

Last month, Air New Zealand also agreed to stop flying shipments of shark fin to Hong Kong.

The decision came about after the New Zealand Shark Alliance revealed the airline's shipments in local media.

"Air New Zealand has taken the decision to suspend the carriage of shark fins while we undertake a review of the issue," Air New Zealand spokesperson Andrew Aitken told CNN last month.

Though such bans prove that the issue is taking root not just at the dinner table but also in boardrooms, more governments in Asia need to follow suit says Jerry McLean, director and co-founder of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.

"Consumers' attitudes are shifting against consuming shark products and many states have banned it including Brunei," he tells CNN.

"Asia's governments need to step up and echo the attitudes of their populace. Hong Kong plays a crucial role in this, as it accounts for a little over 50% of the global trade. But so far Hong Kong hasn't even followed China in banning it at government banquets."

Shark fins have been traded at $800 per kilogram in global markets due to high demand in Asian countries, including Hong Kong, a Korean Air statement said.

South Korea imported 76 tons of shark fins valued at $582,000 last year, according to the Korea Customs Service. Shark fin in South Korea is served mainly in soup, at hotels and Chinese restaurants.

A recent conference in Thailand of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, declared five types of sharks as threatened species that need protection.

In the United States, the New York state legislature has voted to ban trade in shark fins. Several airlines in Asia-Pacific also recently announced they'll stop carrying shark fins.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said last September it would cease shipping any shark parts or shark-related products that CITES hasn't certified as sustainably sourced Air New Zealand Ltd. followed suit this May.

The two Korean airlines said suspending shark-fin shipments wouldn't have much impact on their cargo-carrying business, since they haven't been handling many shark parts.

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