- Published on Friday, 21 April 2017 17:43
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, seen by the Post and confirmed by the airline, China Southern’s vice-president Han Wensheng said the company “attached great importance to the issue” and had “taken immediate action”.
Southern China is the global centre of the shark fin trade. Photo: David Wong
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 ... 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.
Hong Kong airlines Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon impose total ban on carriage of shark fin
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 recent 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.
-South China Morning Post