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Fiji's national airline has announced it will ban the carriage of unsustainably sourced shark fins.
In a company statement, Air Pacific, now Fiji Airways, says they'll only accept shipments of shark-related products from sustainable and verified sources.
The decision has been welcomed by conservation groups, and one of Fiji's main fishing companies.
And, as Tom Maddocks reports, it comes after months of industry and media pressure.
Presenter: Tom Maddocks
Speaker: Alex Hofford, executive director of marine conservation NGO, MyOcean, based in Hong KongGraham Southwick, owner of the Fiji Fish company
MADDOCKS: In a particularly busy week for Air Pacific, as its rebranding into Fiji Airways takes effect, the carrier has kick-started its new image with a significant statement.
The airlines acting CEO Aubrey Swift says its decision to bring a halt to the carriage of unsustainably sourced shark fins and shark-related products, is the end result of a month-long review of the companies freight and environmental policy.
Alex Hofford is the director of marine conservation NGO MyOcean and the leader of a campaign to ban shark fins from Air Pacific flights, supported by about 60 green groups.
He says he's delighted by the announcement.
HOFFORD: I think it's great news, especially because it comes hot on the heels of the Korean Air Line, Asiana Air lines decision to stop carrying shark fin that they issued last Thursday I believe so yeah very happy.
MADDOCKS: Air Pacific have now joined Korean Air, Asiana, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand in banning carriage of the trade.
Alex Hofford says Air Pacific should be commended.
HOFFORD: It's brave of them to come out and do the right thing after being slammed from all sides by the public, the media and social media.
MADDOCKS: Air Pacific has labelled some of that pressure as grossly inaccurate and misleading.
A view shared by the owner of the Fiji Fishing Company, Graham Southwick.
SOUTHWICK: It's absolute nonsense. The kind of cargo that they carry of shark products would probably be less than 100 kilos a month. These kind of wild statements, they don't add any credibility to the people that make these claims and in fact they would be better off if they kept their claims accurate because they'd get a bit more attention from the industry.
MADDOCKS: His company joined the discussion table with Air Pacific and the Fijian government and he says they've arrived at a sensible outcome.
SOUTHWICK: We understand the pressures that were on them from the industry and the pressures on the industry and indeed the pressure on the sharks. But at the end of the day I think we've come up with a solution that has pretty well made most people happy including most of the environmentalists that were concerned about the situation.
MADDOCKS: Only a small portion of the global shark fin trade - about 10 per cent - is carried through the air. But Alex Hofford says they've got to start somewhere.
HOFFORD: We've seen a bit of a pattern emerge. Perhaps you could say these are airline dominos starting to fall. If enough dominos fall and we can get the entire airline sector to come out and stop shipping shark fin that would be great. It might actually be enshrined as international rules by IATA, the global governing body for the aviation industry.
MADDOCKS: Both Alex Hofford and Graham Southwick agree that ocean transport is the major concern.
Southwick says Fiji licenses 50 tuna boats to fish within its zone. Outside of that zone there are about 800 boats fishing without monitoring or regulation.
SOUTHWICK: Here we are, the 50 Fiji boats are lined up against eight or nine-hundred boats fishing on the high seas that are not controlled in any way shape or form. And so we're doing what we can to avoid catching sharks and to release them. But we're just a drop in the ocean. That's why Fiji Airways has done what they can to do what they can and that is to not carry any shark products off these other eight or nine-hundred boats.
MADDOCKS: But whilst Alex Hofford is happy by the step taken by Air Pacific, he says that optimism needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
HOFFORD: There will have to be a quite a strict verification process in place to make sure that they actually don't go back on their decision when no one's looking. We really hope that they are going to do the right thing and stick to it. The shark tourism tourism industry is worth I think it's $US422 million dollars a year.
MADDOCKS: Whether Air Pacific sticks to it or not, Graham Southwick says that his industry is more concerned with sustainable fishing than conservation groups like MyOcean.
SOUTHWICK: This is our livelihood and it affects whatever we do and much more than anybody else. So sustainable fishing practices are always in the front of our mind because after all we're the ones in the front line. If there's a collapse of a fishery or something, we're the first ones to get hit and in many cases we're the only ones to get hit...
SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA PACIFIC BEAT/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media