As word has spread of the moral and environmental horrors associated with the shark fin trade, governments throughout the world have begun enacting bans on the sale and possession of that cruel commodity -- and now the world's largest cargo airline is getting in on the act.
In a statement released today, Chinese air freight company Cathay Pacific announced that it would no longer permit the transport of shark products -- despite being based in Hong Kong, where the demand for traditional shark fin soup continues to thrive.
"Cathay Pacific has decided to stop shipping unsustainably sourced sharks and shark-related products,'' reads the statement, as reported by The Standard. "There is very compelling scientific evidence to support that this is the right thing to do for a company committed to sustainability.
"Specifically, due to the vulnerable nature of sharks, their rapidly declining population, and the impacts of overfishing for their parts and products, our carriage of these is inconsistent with our commitment to sustainable development.''
Every year, an estimated 30 to 73 million sharks killed for their fins -- which has been a major contributor to the decline of about a third of all sharks species to levels nearing extinction. To make matter worse, a recent Pew Environment Group study found that even species classified as 'endangered' are regularly being in restaurants throughout the United States.
China remains the largest consumer of shark fins with some 10,000 tons shipped through Hong Kong annually, but there are signs that the traditional delicacy may be falling out of favor even there; surveys indicate that growing number of Chinese consumers "are willing to forgo their traditional delicacy," reports the AFP.
And, with any luck, Cathay's new policy statement will be bellwether for others to follow:
"We believe that we now have compelling evidence that the majority of shark fishing is incompatible with our position on sustainable development.''
While Cathay Pacific's ban, which will take effect over the next three months, will hardly halt trade of shark fins through Hong Kong entirely (as a majority is transported by cargo ship), it does signal a remarkable change of policy for a Chinese shipping company.