China Southern Airlines, the nation’s largest airline by revenue and eighth biggest globally, said it had banned shark fin on passenger and cargo flights as of March 1. On Thursday, the company made its first public announcement of the policy change.
Headquartered in the shark fin hot spot of Guangzhou, China, Southern’s vice-president Han Wensheng said the company was now taking a stand for animal conservation and “attached great importance to the issue.”
The declaration follows on from flag carrier Air China’s ban on shark fin imports in January, leaving just China Eastern among the big three state-owned airlines yet to declare a position.
China Southern Airlines said it would now “shoulder its social responsibility” and pledged to “actively participate in the cause of wild animal and plants conservation … to jointly promote conservation culture and the sustainable development of [the] human community with the general public.”
Merely a decade ago, most Chinese people were oblivious to the issue, with many not even knowing the soup known as “fish wing” soup was made with shark fins. Attitudes began to change after WildAid enlisted Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming, who played for the Houston Rockets, to front a public awareness campaign in 2006.
Sharks are among the ocean’s top predators and play a vital role in the marine ecosystem, but the US$1 billion annual trade in shark fin has sent their numbers plummeting worldwide. Conservationists say 74 species of sharks are threatened with extinction; 11 are critically endangered, while another 15, including the great hammerhead, are classified as endangered.
Environmentalists in the Asia Pacific are now calling on China Eastern Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Xiamen Air, Tianjin Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, SF Airlines to follow Air China and China Southern Airline’s leadership in protecting sharks by cutting off the supply chain to significant markets such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
The full list of 36 airlines that have pledged to stop shipping shark fin is as follows:
-Cathay Pacific Airways
-China Southern Airlines
-Sri Lankan Airlines
-Eva Air, Qantas
-Air New Zealand
-Lan Chile / LATAM Airlines Group