The Washington Post reports: Air China has become the first airline in mainland China to ban shark fin cargo, marking a dramatic shift in attitudes toward trade in endangered wildlife here and throwing a lifeline to shark populations threatened with imminent extinction.
The news, released late Friday, came just a week after China also announced plans to ban its domestic ivory trade, a landmark decision of vital importance in ending an epidemic of elephant poaching in Africa.
It marks the country’s gradual transformation from being the biggest source of the problem — as the largest market in illegal wildlife products — to becoming a major part of the solution.
“Scientists estimate that fins from up to 73 million sharks a year are used for shark’s fin soup, with much of the trade in shark fin destined for China,” said Alex Hofford, a wildlife activist from conservation group WildAid in Hong Kong, which applauded Air China for taking “an ethical stance” to help protect sharks and oceans. “It’s a bold move, and this is likely to have a huge and lasting impact on shark populations and marine ecosystems worldwide.”
Hofford said the decision by China’s national flag carrier “puts FedEx to shame” — the U.S. multinational courier company has resisted repeated calls to take a similar step, despite a petition signed by 300,000 people, and an appeal from a coalition of animal welfare conservation groups who expressed concerns that its service could be used to carry fins of endangered shark species. That would be a violation of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Courier company United Parcel Service bowed to pressure to ban shark fin shipments in August 2015, acknowledging concerns about authorities’ enforcement capabilities and the adequacy of visual inspections to determine whether shark fins being shipped belonged to endangered species. Rival DHL took a similar step in 2014.
FedEx did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. [Continue reading…]