Cathay Pacific Airlines Bans Shark Fins

Walked around Sheung Wan area yesterday, I was surprised to see these fresh shark fins being dried on the sidewalk openly on a busy street just 3 blocks from the nearest MTR exit!

In a welcomed move, Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific recently announced a ban on the transportation of shark fins on their carriers. Although demand for traditional shark fin soup continues to thrive, the airline has taken a proactive move by banning shark fins for moral and sustainability reasons.

The Standard reports that, “Cathay Pacific has decided to stop shipping unsustainably sourced sharks and shark-related products. There is very compelling scientific evidence to support that this is the right thing to do for a company committed to sustainability.”

Although shark fishing is illegal, it still continues and every year, an estimated 30 to 73 million sharks are killed just for their fins. Sharks are an apex species which are extremely important for ocean ecosystems and they are responsible for keeping the ocean healthy. Sharks are severely threatened and many species are highly endangered and in danger of dying out. A  recent Pew Environment Group study found that even species classified as ‘endangered’ are regularly being served in restaurants throughout the United States.

There has been a steady decline in shark fin consumption in China over the years due to increased awareness of the ecological implications of overfishing. However, the country still remains the largest consumer of shark fins with around 10,000 tons shipped annually through Hong Kong.

Over the next three months, Cathay Pacific’s ban will take effect and they have stated that shark fishing is “incompatible with our position on sustainable development.” While this is a bold move for the airline to take, it will hardly halt the trade of shark fins as a majority of them are transported to Hong Kong via cargo ship. However for the airline, it signals a shift in policy.

It also indicates the potential impact that other airlines could have on the situation if they ban not just shark fin, but also other illegal animal products. As air cargo of such products only make up a small part of what is being traded, it signals a shift that carriers of all kinds can choose what they can carry. This is the kind of proactive CSR thinking that is needed to reduce the amount of illegal animal parts on trade. Animal poaching continues to be one of the biggest reasons for the decline of keystone predators and Cathay Pacific shows the way that even corporates can play a major role in alleviating the situation.

Image Credit: Nicholas Wang/CC BY-SA 2.0

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also