In the wake of growing global concern over decreasing shark populations and degrading health of marine ecosystems, Humane Society International India has petitioned leading airlines in India to end their role in the international trade in shark fins. In their letters to the management of leading Indian carriers – Jet Airways and Air India - HSI India has sought for these airlines to institute a policy against shipment of shark fins. HSI’s letters join an earlier petition led by WildlifeRisk and signed by over several dozen groups around the world.
Research has repeatedly pointed to the fact that India is the world’s second largest shark catching nation and one of the world’s exporters of shark fins. Reports have further revealed that the shark fin trade is today one of the leading contributors to the decimation of sharks globally. Trade reports and undercover investigations have revealed that shark fins are most commonly transported from India to places like Hong Kong, Dubai and China as cargo on airlines.
N.G. Jayasimha, HSI India’s managing director, said: “As top predators, sharks are important to the survival and maintenance of healthy marine ecosystems. However, traders in India have found top dollar buyers and lucrative markets in many East Asian and Southeast Asian countries where shark fins are in high demand. We encourage airline giants such as Jet Airways and Air India to end the role they are playing in a trade that is harming these keystone species.”
In June 2014, Etihad Airways, which holds a 24 percent minority stake in Jet Airways, has also announced its decision to ban shark fin as well as live primate shipments. HSI/ India hopes that Jet Airways shall follow in the example of Etihad and declare a similar decision on its cargo services in India.
The Wildlife Protection Act of India, 1972, offers the highest level of protection to ten species of sharks by listing them under Schedule I. Further, the international trade in numerous other species is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to which India is a signatory. “Owing to the fact that it is often difficult to identify the species from the fins alone, trade in fins from protected shark species is also rampant. Furthermore, traders are exploiting existing loopholes in the listing of wildlife products as per customs regulations and are able to effectively pass off fins for other permitted wildlife-based products,” says Jayasimha.
By adopting a policy against the transport of shark fins, these airlines would be joining the internationally growing league of environmentally conscious airlines such as Emirates, Philippines Airlines, Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Qantas and Air New Zealand, all of whom have made a public commitment to stop carrying shark fins.