PAL announcement a victory for sharks around the world
Manila, Philippines, April 24, 2014— Online pressure has prompted the Philippines’ national airline, Philippine Airlines (PAL), to publicly announce its commitment to sustainable development approximately 12 hours after a petition at change.org against shark fin transport was launched by marine conservationists known as Save Sharks Network Philippines.
According to PAL’s press release, posted on the airline’s website and Facebook page on April 23, the country’s flag carrier will “formalize and strengthen a freight policy it has recently adopted to stop the shipment of shark fin in support of its overall commitment to sustainble development.”The statement also mentioned circulating “a policy for immediate implementation and strict compliance across the organization.”
“The announcement of PAL is also a victory for all sharks species who are brutally murdered for their fins. PAL, being Asia’s first airline and our flag carrier, will be taking a bold step and leading in marine conservation by ceasing the transportation of shark fins,” said Anna Oposa, co-founder of Save Philippine Seas and founder of the Shark Shelter Project in Malapascua Island. “This will also send a powerful message to the government and other airlines that the private sector can significantly contribute in sustainability efforts.”
Public awareness, combined with concerted social media efforts was instrumental to this development. PAL’s announcement against shark fin transport was a response to a call made through a change.org petition to implement a ban on carrying shark fins and other related products on all PAL flights.
In March 2014, representatives from the said network met with members of PAL Cargo to discuss shark fin transport, since the airline had no existing policies to address the issue. During the meeting, PAL said they would begin to move internally to have rules in place. They also claimed to have no data that they were transporting shark fins and related products because their cargo operations were outsourced.
The network closely monitored the airline’s activities. Last April 16, a Hong Kong-based NGO WildLifeRisk and a US-based NGO Fins Attached documented a large shipment of 136 x 50kg bags totalling 6,800 kg of dried shark fins at a Hong Kong warehouse run by a Hong Kong registered company, Global Marine.
The airway bill stickers on each of the 136 bags indicated that the shipment was handled by a Dubai-based freight forwarder, International Maritime and Aviation (IMA) and had entered Hong Kong en route from Dubai on Philippines Airlines (PAL Cargo). This was a move highly contrary to the airline’s earlier pronouncement.
The group believes that PAL picked up the dirty business of shipping shark fins to Hong Kong on the Middle East to Asia route which was commendably dropped for ecological reasons by Cathay Pacific and Emirates.
“Sharks help in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem. Their dwindling numbers, due to the growing demand for shark’s fin soup and other shark products, already upset the problematic status of our seas and oceans,” said Vince Cinches, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “We are asking everyone to remain vigilant and make sure that PAL will honor its commitment and advise other airlines to adopt a similar shark ban to help save our marine ecosystem.”
“What is important now is that PAL has publicly announced that they will commit to a total ban. The next step is to ensure that they will do so, and we are hoping to meet with them soon,” Oposa added.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
- Hong Kong Government Census & Statistics Department data indicates that over 5,390 tons of shark fins were imported into Hong Kong in 2013, of which 14.86% was by air cargo. According to a July 2013 report by the global wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, the Philippines is a significant shark catching nation that exports about 73,320 kg. of shark products to Hong Kong annually. With the exception of a few species, shark fishing in the Philippines continues to be legal, unmonitored, and unregulated.
- INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Program has advised that companies transporting these fins may be implicated in a crime. Until the legality and sustainability of sources of shark fin can be adequately accounted for, the network recommend all companies involved in logistics to suspend transport of shark fin as a precautionary measure and responsible business practice.
- PAL’s proposed policy will make it the 18th international airline to adopt similar measures to help preserve shark populations. Other airlines include Air New Zealand, Garuda Indonesia, KLM, Swiss, FinnAir, Lufthansa, Lan Chile / LATAM Airlines Group, Eva Air, Aeroméxico, Emirates, Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Qantas & Air New Zealand.
 Save Sharks Network Philippines is composed of the following organizations: Save the Philippine Seas,Greenpeace Southeast Asia,Philippine Animal Welfare SocietyMarine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines,Earth Island Institute – Philippines,Restore Outdoor Club,NGOs for Fisheries Reform,Dolphins Love Freedom,Asia Center for Sustainable Future, LaMaVe Project,A2d Project,Conservation International Philippines,Fins Attached: Marine Research and ConservationWildLifeRisk, Hong KongHumane Society International,Turtle Conservation Society of the Philippines, Inc., Hon. Raymond Palatino, PhilippineBeaches.org, and Harold’s Dive Center/Harold Mansion.