HONG KONG • Shark's fin from endangered species, including the giant, placid whale shark, was found in a Singapore Airlines shipment to Hong Kong this month, highlighting the widespread challenges the Chinese territory faces in regulating the trade.
The 980kg shipment of assorted fins came from Colombo, Sri Lanka, via Singapore.
SIA, which bans shark's fin cargo, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that the shipment had been labelled as "dry seafood".
Hong Kong permits imports of shark's fin, viewed as a delicacy, but shark species listed by the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species must be accompanied by a permit.
Hong Kong is the world's largest trading hub for shark's fin and has moved to stop illegal trading.
On the fringes of the former British colony's industrial western district where the SIA shipment was sent, warehouses are filled with bags of shark's fin, while dried seafood stores are stacked high with the product.
Mr Gary Stokes, Asia director at Sea Shepherd, who discovered the endangered fins within the shipment, said: "This is another case of misleading and deceiving.
"The shipment came declared as 'dried seafood', so (it) didn't flag any alarms."
SIA said it had sent out a reminder to all its stations to immediately conduct sampling checks on shipments labelled "dried seafood". It has also blacklisted the shipper.
The airline was not able to provide further details.
A Sea Shepherd investigation last year revealed that Maersk, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia Cargo, which ban the transport of shark's fin, were targets of shark's fin smuggling, including those from endangered species.
Viewed as a status symbol, shark's fin is typically consumed in a shredded jelly-like soup believed to have nourishing benefits.
Restaurants across Hong Kong serve the delicacy.
Over 70 million sharks are killed annually, pushing over a quarter of species into extinction, according to the World Wildlife Fund.