Air China Cargo has become the first carrier from the Chinese mainland to ban the transport of shark fins aboard its aircraft, signifying an important curb to the trade of a product that is widely considered to be both inhumane and a threat to an endangered species. The carrier has not yet stated when the policy will take effect.
The Chinese carrier joins 36 airlines from around the world that have enacted similar bans on environmental grounds.
Because China is the largest market for the fins, which are considered a delicacy in many regions, activists have spent decades working to curb Chinese appetites. Some groups have harnessed celebrity endorsements to support their cause, including NBA basketball superstar Yao Ming (see video below).
For Air China and other mainland carriers, the decision has meaningful financial implications. Shark fins can fetch up to US$650 per kilogram. According to sharktruth.com, a single whale shark pectoral fin can be worth up to $20,000 and a basking shark pectoral fin can fetch up to $50,000.
“We understand the community’s desire to promote responsible and sustainable marine sourcing practices, and this remains important to Air China Cargo’s overall sustainable development goals,” read a statement from the carrier. Air China Cargo also said that it was committed to playing a bigger role in global sustainability.
Last year, budget carrier HK Express became the first Hong Kong to implement a ban, followed in recent months by Cathay Pacific and Dragonair.
Research suggests that efforts are paying off. According to wildlife conservation group WildAid, Chinese consumption of shark fins has fallen by up to 70 percent in recent years.