Package delivery company FedEx has come under fire for “lacking sincerity” in banning shark fin shipments after its Hong Kong managing director refused to speak with wildlife activists.

On Thursday, activists from environmental group WildAid made a surprise visit to a FedEx media event attended by Anthony Leung, managing director of the company’s Hong Kong and Macau branch. Leung declined to engage with the activists, WildAid said.

“He just stuck his phone on his ear and pretended like he was talking to someone and quick-marched on his way,” WildAid campaigner Alex Hofford told HKFP.

anthony leund fedex
Anthony Leung (R) declined to speak with wildlife activists on Thursday. Photo: WildAid.

“[W]e are disappointed by Leung’s lack of a response. This shows us that – unlike UPS, DHL, China Southern Airlines, Air China, Cathay Pacific, the list goes on and on – FedEx are definitely not sincere about sustainability.”

Illegal sources

Conservationists estimate that over 50 per cent of the global shark fin trade passes through Hong Kong every year, much of it from illegal sources.

WildAid is calling on FedEx to immediately ban all shipments of shark fin on the basis that the company cannot ensure any shark fins presented for shipment are legal.

“At issue here is the fact that FedEx are likely operating illegally, and that’s very serious,” Hofford said.

He added that shark fins from a species that is legally allowed to be exported look very similar to those from illegal sources. “Quite simply, both are grey and triangular. FedEx has yet to clarify to the public how it can accurately differentiate between the two.”

shark fins
Shark fins. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

In response, a spokesperson for FedEx told HKFP: “Our service terms and conditions prohibit any shipments that violate applicable laws or regulations. FedEx continues to comply with these laws and regulations, and our customers are required to do the same.”

It added that FedEx will investigate any allegation of policy violation and will take action when necessary, such as cancelling a shipper’s account.

Calling the statement “garbage,” Hofford said other companies have shown that they understood the issue is how – not whether – they comply with laws and regulations.

UPS, for example, said in 2015 that it decided to deny shipments of all shark fins because law enforcement agents may not be able to identify the species where the items come from. It made the decision after consulting experts from the World Wildlife Fund.

“The potential for misidentification presents an unacceptable business condition for UPS to continue carrying shark fins,” the package delivery company said at the time.

Over 355,000 people from around the world have signed a petition asking FedEx to stop shipping the product.

fedex shark fin shipment
A WildAid activist at a FedEx media event on Thursday. Photo: WildAid.

“FedEx has a choice to make. Are they going to join UPS and other shipping companies and stand up for sharks, or are they going to continue contributing to sharks’ extinction?” the petition organiser wrote.

Last month, China’s biggest airline – China Southern Airlines – decided to immediately halt all shark fin shipments. The news came two months after Air China became the first airline in the country to implement the ban.

WildAid is also calling on United Airlines to join the growing number of companies committed to the ban, including local carriers HK Express, Cathay Pacific and Dragonair.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.