Wednesday, 6 June 2018

CHINA: China Southern Airlines Bans Shark Fin Shipments, Pledges To Support Conservation

China Southern Airlines, the mainland’s biggest carrier, has banned shark fin shipments and promised to actively participate in animal conservation.

The decision is significant as the company is based in Guangzhou, the world’s largest trading hub for the delicacy, and it narrows the options for Chinese importers.

It means that 51 per cent of international airlines, based on seat capacity, have now banned the cargo.

Flag carrier Air China had already banned shark fin, leaving just China Eastern among the big three state-owned airlines yet to declare a position.

Robust campaigning by wildlife activists over the years has also led the nation’s largest shipper and logistics firm, China COSCO Shipping, to come onside.

In a letter to WildAid Hong Kong, China Southern’s vice-president Han Wensheng said the company attached great importance to the issue and had taken immediate action.

The nation’s largest airline by revenue and eighth biggest globally said it had banned shark fin on passenger and cargo flights as of March 1, but the letter was its first public announcement of the policy change.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the global coalition of shark and marine conservation groups for your constant attention and support to China Southern’s air transport business, Han said.

The airline said it would shoulder its social responsibility and pledged to actively participate in the cause of wild animal and plants conservation.

Also to jointly promote conservation culture and the sustainable development of the human community with the general public.

Environmentalists have long campaigned against the trade in fins, a staple at weddings and banquets saying the harvesting methods are cruel and that shark populations have declined dramatically.

Other carriers making the same commitment include Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways, British Airways, American Airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Worldwide, 17 of the 19 biggest shipping lines measured by container capacity have banned shark fin, impacting 71 per cent of the global market.

Notable signatories include Maersk, the world’s biggest, and former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s family company Orient Overseas Container Line, better known as OOCL.

Alex Hofford, wildlife campaigner at WildAid Hong Kong, applauded the move.

This particular shark fin airline ban will be hugely impactful for the simple fact that Guangzhou is the world’s largest shark fin trading hub, even eclipsing Hong Kong, he said.

China Southern’s ban will no doubt send a strong message to the many Guangzhou shark fin traders that their business activities are often illegal, but always unethical, immoral, cruel and unsustainable.

Attention will now turn to the United States with the likes of FedEx and United Airlines whose mistreatment of an Asian-American passenger thrust it into the spotlight likely to face growing pressure to change their ways.

More than a dozen protesters descended on a press conference held by FedEx on Thursday to protest about shark fins as the company launched an online service in Hong Kong to tap into the burgeoning e-commerce and online shopping market.

Questions remain on why United States air carriers FedEx and United Airlines still continue to ship shark fin, often illegally, Hofford said.

Air China became first mainland carrier to ban shark fin cargo.

The airline joined more than 30 others worldwide in battle against controversial trade.
Air China Cargo has become the first mainland carrier to ban the transport of shark fin, dealing another blow to the international trade.

The carrier, which is part of Air China and responsible for cargo shipment on freight planes and the airline’s commercial aircraft, did not specify when the policy change would take effect.

Some 36 airlines have now joined the ban globally.

In a statement posted on its website on Friday, the cargo company said it was committed to playing a bigger role in global sustainability.

“We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Air China Cargo’s overall sustainable development goals,” the statement read.

“Therefore, on the issue of shark fin, we reiterate our ‘No Shark Fin’ carriage policy.”

Last year, budget carrier HK Express became the first local carrier to implement a ban, followed in recent months by Cathay Pacific and Dragonair.

Other major airlines observing the ban include British Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and American Airlines.

Also in July, mainland China’s biggest shipping and ­logistics company, China Ocean Shipping Company (Cosco Shipping), pledged a total ban on shark fin transportation.

The shipping giant is the fourth-largest container operator in the world with a 7.7 per cent market share.

Alex Hofford, a wildlife activist from conservation group WildAid, said Air China’s action to save sharks would be far-reaching.

Scientists estimate that fins from up to 73 million sharks a year are used for shark’s fin soup, with much of the trade in shark fin destined for China, he said.

Air China’s No Shark Fin commitment is therefore hugely significant because, despite government efforts, China including Hong Kong is a country where significant demand for shark’s fin soup still exists.

It’s a bold move and this is likely to have a huge and lasting impact on shark populations and marine ecosystems worldwide, he added.

Hofford said full enforcement of the ban by airlines and shipping lines was vital to ensure its effectiveness in protecting shark populations.

He urged vigilance against deliberate mislabelling of shark fin cargo to stop people from circumventing the ban.

Focus has now turned to mainland China’s other major airlines, especially one of the biggest global carriers by revenue, China Southern Airlines.

The company is based in Guangzhou, an area singled out as a major shark fin trading hub, WildAid said.

According to the group, research suggested that Chinese consumption of shark fin fell by 50 to 70 per cent in recent years.

Hong Kong airlines Cathay Pacific and Dragonair impose total ban on carriage of shark fin.

The two carriers came under increasing pressure from conservationists after they pledged in 2012 to carry fins only from sustainable sources.

Hong Kong’s flagship airline has finally bowed to public pressure by slapping a blanket ban on shark fin being carried on any of its planes.

But Cathay Pacific, the city’s biggest carrier, and its sister ­airline Dragonair have left the door open to a possible U-turn by saying the new policy will be ­subject to review.

The move which will take ­effect immediately comes after budget airline HK Express became the first local carrier to axe shark fin shipments last month.

Cathay has faced sustained pressure from environmentalists, including protests at their check-in desks at Hong Kong International Airport and children petitioning airline executives.

We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Cathay Pacific’s overall sustainable development goals, Cathay said in a statement.

Therefore, on the issue of shark fin, with immediate effect we are happy to agree to ban the carriage. We will continue to review this practice, as we do all our sustainable development policies.

Previously, Cathay chose not to impose an outright ban but instead set up a panel of experts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether each shipment was from a sustainable source.

The policy dates back to 2012, but since then three dozen airlines have gone one step further to implement an outright ban, leaving Cathay exposed to criticism.

Campaigners argue it is often impossible to verify whether cargo is sustainable or not.

The old policy was described by the airline as a more challenging approach than an outright ban.

Cathay said the criticism was unwarranted as it was one of the first airlines to raise awareness of the unsustainability of the global shark fin trade back in 2012.

The government says shark fin imports to Hong Kong dropped by 42 per cent between 2010 and last year to reach 5,717 tonnes. During this period there was also a 72 per cent drop in imports by air to 450 tonnes.

Cathay and Dragonair join British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates in banning shark fin.

Alex Hofford, wildlife campaigner for WildAid, said: A responsible corporation like Cathay Pacific should never be seen to be a link in the supply chain for a criminal trade.

That’s why we are so happy that Cathay has done the right thing by no longer carrying any shark fin or shark products. Shipping sharks by air is not just an issue of sustainability, but ethics and legality.

Only Hong Kong Airlines has yet to establish a position on shark fins.

Tourism Observer

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