HONG KONG - Budget airline HK Express will become the first airline in Hong Kong, capital of the world's shark fin trade, to ban shark fin cargo, the Sunday Morning Post reported (May 22).
The airline said it was making a declaration of support for the global campaign to ban the trade, the Post said. It joins a growing list of airlines including Singapore Airlines that have pledged to stop carrying shark fin.
"This is really just a public show of support at this time to the people and organisations seeking to ban this cruel practice," HK Express CEO Andrew Cowen told the Post. He said it had already been "many years" since the airline last transported shark fins.
He noted the "appalling cruelty" in catching sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing them back into the sea to drown in agony.
He also highlighted the importance of sharks in keeping the marine ecosystem in balance.
Shark fin is a pricey delicacy among Chinese diners. It has been estimated that 30 sharks have to die for every Hong Kong wedding banquet.
But the shark fin trade has taken a hit in recent years, largely due to a global backlash against the trade and the cruelty it involves.
According to Hong Kong government data cited by the Post, shark fin imports to Hong Kong dropped by 42 per cent between 2010 and 2015 to 5,717 tonnes.
During this period there was also a 72 per cent drop in imports by air to 450 tonnes.
Thirty-five airlines worldwide that have pledged to stop carrying shark fin, including British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, the Post noted.
Two other Hong Kong-based airlines, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair , claim to follow a "sustainable" shark-fin policy rather than an outright ban.
In February, Orient Overseas Container Line, the shipping giant owned by the family of former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, announced it would stop carrying shark, whale and dolphin meat and products with immediate effect.
Hong Kong-based environment groups WildAid and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation praised HK Express for its move to stop transporting shark fin.
"Time is running out fast for our oceans and the sharks who live in them, and so the positive environmental stewardship shown by HK Express will be greatly appreciated by the marine conservation world," Ms Joan Chan, campaign director of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, was quoted as saying by the Post.
A pro-shark fin lobbying group, the Marine Products Association, slammed the move.
Its chairman Ricky Leung said according to the Post: "Imagine a French airline banning foie gras or Russian airlines banning caviar. It would be foolish and it undermines us."