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Activists Call Cathay Pacific’s Shark Fin Policy “A Bogus Promise”

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific earned praise in 2012 when it announced a ban on unsustainably harvested shark fin shipments, now environmental groups say the policy doesn’t go nearly far enough.

The shark fin trade is an incredibly profitable and highly controversial business. When Hong Kong’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, announced a partial ban on shark fin shipments in 2012, it was widely hailed as good news by environmentalists. The airline’s pledge to only accept shipments certified as sustainably harvested earned praise from environmental groups and sparked other airlines in the region to ban shark fin shipments outright.

While some groups are lobbying to end to shark fishing entirely, it is the unsustainable harvest of shark fins that has earned widespread condemnation for its perceived cruelty and wastefulness in recent years. In many cases, the fins, considered a traditional celebratory delicacy in parts of Asia, are removed from live sharks which are then discarded after the valuable fin is taken.

“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,” Ran Elfassy, the head of Hong Kong-based Shark Rescue, told CNN a few months after the airline’s pledge in June of 2013. “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.”

Now advocates are jeering the airline’s decision to begin allowing sustainably sourced shark fins to ship as cargo. Critics say that it is impossible to be certain that the shipments of shark fins are coming from sustainable sources and advocates have come to believe that the carrier is trying to play both sides of the fence.

In an apparent about-face, the director of Shark Rescue recently told the South China Morning Post that Cathay Pacific’s 2012 ban was “a bogus promise.” Elfassy went on to say that the airline is “out of step” with more effective bans imposed by competing carriers like Air New Zealand, Korean Air, and Asiana.

For its part, Cathay Pacific says airline officials believe it is possible to judge shark fin shipments on a case by case basis. A company spokesperson told the newspaper that the airline remains committed to ensuring that endangered shark species are not harvested simply for fins and that all of the fins shipped are taken humanely and sustainably. “The decision on accepting the shipment or not is based upon the assessment report produced by the IUCN/TRAFFIC experts in accordance with the sustainability of the species,” the spokesperson insisted.

[Photo: Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images]

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FlyingUnderTheRadar January 13, 2016

Cathay needs to talk to Disney ... they determined 10 years ago that they was no sustainable harvesting of sharks: Hong Kong Disneyland said that after careful research, it had concluded that shark fishing could not be conducted in an environmentally sustainable way. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/25/business/media/shark-soup-is-off-the-menu-at-hong-kong-disneyland.html?_r=0