Hong Kong airline Cathay -Pacific announced last month that it would no longer carry unsustainably sourced shark products on its cargo flights.
In a statement, the airline said that it had studied the issue extensively and found compelling scientific evidence that the vulnerable nature of sharks, their rapidly declining population, and the impacts of overfishing for their parts and products posed a severe threat to the species.
About 73 million sharks are killed every year, with Hong Kong importing about 10,000 tons annually for the past decade, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Most of that is re-exported to mainland China.
The number of threatened shark species has soared from 15 in 1996 to more than 180 in 2010, mainly due to the growth of the Chinese middle class who consider shark fin soup a rare delicacy.
The airline’s change in policy continues the momentum of companies like Air India (reported in ANIMAL POST September 14, for its decision to stop ferrying animals like rabbits, cats and dogs for laboratory tests, where they are experimented upon and finally killed) who are taking actions to stop practices that are unethical and environmentally unsustainable.
The ban sends an important message that the shark fin business is ecologically unsustainable. The trick is to change centuries old attitudes in mainland China.
Importers and restaurants that serve the product cite the cultural aspect of shark fin soup to justify the trade, but some surveys suggest consumers are willing to forgo their traditional delicacy.
A survey by marine conservation group Bloom last year showed that some 78 percent of Hong Kong respondents considered it socially acceptable to leave shark fin soup off the menu at a wedding banquet.
Major Hong Kong-based hotel chains Peninsula and Shangri-La have recently stopped serving shark fin at their up-market restaurants, amid signs that demand for the soup in Hong Kong is falling.
For more information on imperiled sharks see ANIMAL POST “Apex Predators,” August 18, 2012.