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July 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Win for Shark Fins: Fiji Airways Reverses Its Stance

from the July, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In last month's issue, we wrote how Fiji Airways, Fiji's national airline that recently changed its name from Air Pacific, has been exposed as one of the world's major carriers of shark fins into Hong Kong. Well, on June 24, we got an e-mail from a Anna Gaidaenko at Ogilvy Public Relations that Fiji Airways is banning "unsustainably harvested" shark fin as cargo on its planes.

Our story gave details from an extensive investigation by the South China Morning Post , which reported that the airlines' new Airbus A330 aircraft were, according to a group of pilots, "basically a thinly-disguised freighter" carrying shark fins to Hong Kong from Pacific islands.

In the press release, Air Pacific's acting CEO Aubrey Swift says the move is the result of a month-long review of its freight policies relating to shark products. "We believe a ban on the shipment of unsustainably sourced shark fins is the right thing to do, and have implemented this policy effective immediately."

We'd like to take a little bit of credit in helping Air Pacific's higher-ups to change their minds. Still, keep in mind that it's only banning the "unsustainably harvested" ones. Swift said Air Pacific would still accept shipments of such products from sustainable sources. "We will now work with conservation partners and the fishing industry to prepare and implement policies and processes that will ensure future shipments are sustainably sourced.

The airline's announcement comes during a time when other Asia Pacific airlines were doing the same. Korean Air announced its policy change last week. Its rival, Asiana, told CNN that the airline had already banned shark fins from its flights. Air New Zealand had temporarily suspended transport in May after the New Zealand Shark Alliance exposed the practice in local media, but two days after Air Pacific's announcement, it announced it was stopping shipments altogether, even of sustainably harvested fins.

All these changes were made after pressure from ocean-focused groups, reports on the media, and divers who announce their displeasure by withholding their dollars. To date, 99 countries have now banned shark finning. In the U.S., eight states have banned the buying and selling of fins -- California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington. Nine nations and territories, from the Bahamas in the Caribbean to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, have recently created sanctuaries to protect the animals in their waters.

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