Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific bans shark fins as air cargo, bowing to pressure from green groups

Kelvin Chan, The Associated Press

HONG KONG - Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific says it will stop carrying shark fins as cargo, bowing to pressure from groups concerned about cruelty and possible extinctions as China's appetite for the delicacy rises.

"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," Cathay said in a statement.

Shark's fin soup has long been a staple of high-class Chinese banquets and its consumption is becoming more commonplace as incomes in China rise.

Cathay is the biggest airline in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong, which is estimated to account for about half of the global trade in shark fins. The company is also one of the world's biggest cargo airlines.

"The decision will not have a material impact on business," spokeswoman Elin Wong said Thursday, but she could not say exactly how much shark's fin the airline carried.

The airline's decision comes after it received a letter in July from 40 environmental and humane groups. Citing government statistics, they said more than 10,200 metric tons of shark fin were imported into Hong Kong last year, 13 per cent of that by air cargo.

The announcement by Cathay, one of Hong Kong's blue chip companies, follows similar moves by other high profile groups. The luxury Peninsula and Shangri-la hotel chains have said they would stop serving shark's fin. In July, the Chinese government said it would stop serving it at official receptions.