In May the South China Morning Post reported that HK Express had become Hong Kong’s first airline to ban shark fin cargo. The airline said it was making a declaration of support for the global campaign to ban the trade. Locally-based concern groups WildAid and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation praised HK Express for joining an expanding list of airlines around the world going shark fin free.
In February, the shipping giant Orient Overseas Container Line, announced it would stop carrying shark, whale and dolphin meat and products with immediate effect.
“This is really just a public show of support at this time to the people and organizations seeking to ban this cruel practice,” HK Express CEO Andrew Cowen told the Post, acknowledging the growing public backlash against selling and eating shark fin.
Cowen condemned the “appalling cruelty” in catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing them back into the sea to drown in agony. He highlighted the importance of sharks in keeping the marine ecosystem in balance, and the threat to their existence posed by gourmet demands.
36 airlines worldwide have pledged to stop carrying shark fin, including British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates.
Joan Chan, campaign director of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, said: “Time is running out fast for our oceans and the sharks who live in them.”
A pro-shark fin lobbying group, the Marine Products Association, slammed the move, stating it was not rich enough to “counter-attack propaganda” by conservation and wildlife groups. Its chairman, Ricky Leung Lak-kee, said: “Imagine a French airline banning foie gras or Russian airlines banning caviar. It would be foolish and it undermines us.”
Days after HK Express became the first local carrier to ban shipments, wildlife campaigners kept up pressure on Cathay Pacific Airways to stop carrying shark fin cargo by staging a protest at Hong Kong International Airport. Nine protesters wearing shark costumes held posters and slogans at Cathay’s check-in area and later staged a sit-in to get their message across about what the airline calls its “sustainable” shark fin policy. The 45-minute protest led to a stand-off with airport and security staff and police.
Mounting protests led Cathay Pacific in late June to stop shipping shark fins.
WildAid is now calling on Fiji Airways to ditch their outdated and broken “sustainable shark fins only” policy.
Marine ecologist Neil Hammerschlag: “Shark-fin soup is mainly consumed as a cultural sign of wealth. It’s a long-held tradition. It has no color, no taste, no smell, in itself. In fact, to the soup itself has to be added chicken broth, beef or pork broth just to give it a taste. So it’s not consumed because of any nutritional value or any taste or anything like that. Many people who consume shark-fin soup have no idea that sharks are in any trouble or are declining as a result.”
Around 100 million sharks are killed annually.
Hammerschlag on the impact of the movie Jaws: “It’s really unfortunate that that movie was made, because it demonized sharks. You know, people didn’t really care about sharks, it wasn’t on people’s consciousness, and now after that movie came out, there are a lot of people who kind of wanted to rid the ocean of sharks and thought that any good shark was a dead shark. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.”