On May 30, a Singapore Airlines shipment to Hong Kong contained the fins of certain shark species that are endangered, such as the enormous whale shark. This incident drew attention to Hong Kong’s challenge in regulating this trade.
According to a Reuters report, the shipment, which weighed more than one ton (2,150 pounds or 980 kilos), originated from Sri Lanka. According to a statement from Singapore Airlines, the shipment had been labeled as “Dry Seafood.” The airlines does not allow the shipment of shark fins.
Singapore Airlines also announced that the shipper has been blacklisted, and that it has reminded all of their stations to check all other ‘dried seafood’ shipments.
The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) states that shark species can only be shipped with a permit.
The shipping of shark fins is legal in Hong Kong, where it is considered a delicacy. However, there have been endeavors to stop the illegal trade of shark fins in Hong Kong, which is the biggest trade for shark fins in the world. There are warehouses filled with bags of shark fins, and they are widely available in dried seafood stores.
Shark fins are usually served in a soup, purportedly to promote good health. Many food establishments in Hong Kong serve shark fins, such as Jardine Matheson Group’s Maxims, one of the largest restaurant chains.
The demand for shark fins has caused the death of more than 70 million sharks per year. The World Wildlife Fund says that more than one-fourth of shark species have become extinct.
Even if worldwide attention has caused the volume of shark fins in Hong Kong to decrease by 50 percent since 2008, the government has seen a steady supply of illegal shark fins, which include fins from such endangered species as the oceanic white tip and hammerhead sharks.
Sea Shepherd made the discovery of the endangered shark fins in the shipment. Director for Asia for the company, Gary Stokes, said, “This is another case of misleading and deceiving. The shipment came declared as ‘dried seafood’ so didn’t flag any alarms.”
In 2017, Sea Shepherd conducted an investigation that reveled that Virgin Australia Cargo, Maersk and Cathay Pacific had been targeted by shark fins smugglers. All three companies do not allow shark fins to be transported.