Philippine Airlines Urged to Stop Shark Fin Shipments

Philippine Airlines is under pressure once again from animal rights and environmental advocacy groups after a "suspected illegal" shipment of shark fins was discovered in Hong Kong. A campaign has been launched asking Philippine Airlines to commit to end the trade of shark fins. Last year, Philippine Airlines agreed to end the transport of live animals for cruel research and experimentation after an extensive international campaign was mounted led by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Image Source: South China Morning Post
According to the World Wildlife Fund of Hong Kong, overall imports of shark fins to the city fell by thirty-five percent last year compared to 2012.The reduction in deliveries is a result of increasing pressure from environmental groups and the Hong Kong government's efforts to crack down on corruption and extravagance.

Nearly 100 individuals and advocacy groups have put their support behind an open letter submitted to PAL executives asking them to halt the trade immediately. In the letter, it was stated that Philippine Airlines "directly contradicts" its commitment to sustainable development by permitting the carriage of shark fins and related products on flights bound for Hong Kong. 

The letter was triggered after US-based FinsAttached and Hong Kong-based WildLifeRisk, discovered what they believed to be an illegal shipment of shark fins sent from Dubai via Philippine Airlines. Both advocacy groups asked Philippine Airlines in their open letter to help cut the supply chain. 

"Simply put, the tons of shark fins transported as cargo into Hong Kong on Philippine Airlines flights are directly leading to the endangerment of shark species and the marine environment in Asia and beyond," advocates wrote in the letter. "We need the airline's help in cutting the supply chain of shark fins to Hong Kong." The letter demanded that Philippine Airlines set an "aggressive timetable" to stop carrying shark fins and to post a pledge on its website. 

The 136 bags discovered in Hong Kong contained an estimated 6.5 tons of shark fins bound for dried seafood trader, Global Marine in Sheung Wan. However, the company insisted that the shipment was legal. "We have documents like import or export permits," a spokesman said. "There is nothing illegal and we have nothing to hide."

However, representatives of WildlifeRisk countered that there was "a low chance" that the shipment was legal, citing that Dubai was merely used as a trans-shipment centre for fins that were harvested in Africa where enforcement of fishing regulations is ineffective. 

Several foreign carriers have supported advocacy efforts by stopping shipments that pertain to controversial issues. However, Philippine Airlines is once again one of the last carriers to join the effort. Last June, Dubai-based Emirates stopped all shipments of shark fins on its Hong Kong bound flights. Advocacy groups believe that Philippine Airlines is holding out for financial reasons suggesting that since the airline flies several migrant workers to Dubai, the aircraft often fly back empty. 

At least five major international carriers have already banned shark fin cargo from its flights including Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Korean Air, while Fiji-based Air Pacific only permits fins from verified and sustainable sources.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists in the Philippines are furious over the news, citing a breach of trust after they met with PAL executives last year. It is believed that Global Marine in Hong Kong has received regular shipments of two to three tons each from Dubai that were flown by Philippine Airlines. Global Marine acts as a wholesaler for the shark fins. 

Philippine Airlines has yet to release a statement or comment on the matter. 

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