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Hong Kong airline to stop shipping shark fin on cargo flights

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Maybe every week is shark week.

Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific has announced that it will stop shipping unsustainably sourced shark products.

"We believe that we now have compelling evidence that the majority of shark fishing is incompatible with our position on Sustainable Development," the company said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Marine-protection groups and organizations sent a joint petition to Swire Pacific, Cathay Pacific’s holding company, asking they ban the shipping of shark fin on all planes.

Hong Kong imports about half of all shark fin, making it the world’s largest market. Some 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products were imported into Hong Kong in 2011, according to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong.

A Cathay spokeswoman told the International Herald Tribune’s Rendezvous that the cargo ban “will not have a material impact on our business.”

Although it is tasteless, shark fin soup remains a status symbol in China and Hong Kong. Finning--when a shark’s fins are sliced off and its body is discarded in the ocean-- is taking its toll on the shark population.  Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year, primary for shark fin soup, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair serving shark fin soup on its flights and at corporate events in 2009.

Environmental and conservation groups and campaigners lauded the announcement.

“This is a milestone in our efforts to end the trade of products like shark fin in Hong Kong,” Ran Elfassy, director of Shark Rescue, a marine conservation campaign in Hong Kong, told Rendezvous. “The city is the leading trade hub for these endangered animal products, and airlines are significant players in the supply chain.”