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June 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Fiji Airways: A Major Link in the Shark Fin Trade

from the June, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you're going to Fiji, the only way an environmentally- conscious diver can fly there now is via Air New Zealand. Fiji's national airline, Air Pacific (which is going back to its original name of Fiji Airways this month), has been exposed as one of the world's major carriers of shark fins into Hong Kong. After an extensive investigation, the South China Morning Post has reported that the airlines' new Airbus A330 aircraft were, according to a group of pilots familiar with its operations, "basically a thinly-disguised freighter" carrying shark fins to Hong Kong from Pacific islands.

The newspaper said suspicions were raised in March during a speech given by Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, Hong Kong's Secretary for Transport, at a reception for a new Airbus A330 on the airline's Hong Kong route. "There were only 45 tons of cargo being carried between Hong Kong and Fiji in 2009. By the end of last year, the cargo volume was close to 1,000 tons," he said in what the Morning Post stated as a reference to shark fins. "Thanks to the close aviation links, we in Hong Kong can now enjoy various kinds of seafood products from the South Pacific, as Fiji is one of the major exporters of fish and fishery products to Hong Kong."

Alex Hofford, director of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, said there had been a 20-fold leap in airfreight tonnage from Fiji to Hong Kong in just three years. "It's not pineapples or electronics that are being flown here from Fiji, you can be sure of that. You may be on an Air Pacific flight where you think: 'This can't be making money, the plane is empty,' but the fact is, it's full of cargo. They can afford to lose money on the passenger side because they're making money on air freight."

Air Pacific may be picking up the cargo from Cathay Pacific, which last year bowed to pressure from environmental groups and halted all shark-fin cargoes. Air Pacific spokesman Shane Hussein told the Morning Post that the airline was investigating the issue.

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