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American Airlines Stops Shipping Shark Fins After Pressure From Conservation Groups

It's in support of a worldwide ban on the controversial delicacy.

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American Airlines came out against the practice of harvesting, selling, distributing, and serving shark fin this morning. In a tweet, the company explained that it has not shipped shark fins since March 4.

Shark fins are considered a delicacy in China and may parts of Asia where fresh fins can fetch prices of up to $400 per kilogram. Though shark fins are widely banned in the many parts of the world, the harvesting of shark fins remains a profitable seafood business; the worldwide trade is valued at over $1 billion.

Shark finning is the practice of cutting off a shark's fins while it is still alive and discarding its still living body back into the ocean. Though it's by far the most profitable way of harvesting shark fins, its toll on shark populations and the well-being of sharks (an essential part of the sea's food chain) is tragic. Finned sharks sink to the bottom of the sea and die slowly of suffocation. Catching sharks, killing them, and then cutting off their fins is a practice common in the oceans around South America, Canada, and Europe, and feeds the demand for shark fin in Asia.

American Airlines' announcement comes after two major conservation groups — Turtle Island Restoration Network and PRETOMA — noted that fins harvested in Costa Rica and transported by American Airlines planes to Hong Kong often made stops on U.S. soil, which is illegal. Joanna Nasar, communication manager for Turtle Island Restoration Network, released a statement: "To see American Airlines, a major U.S. airline with extensive influence, publicly acknowledge that they are no longer going to be shipping shark fins is incredible."

Though shark fin soup is served in Las Vegas — where tourists and expensive delicacies abound — it is not something any restaurateur will admit to having on their menu. Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay has come out against shark fin soup and even signed a petition promising not to serve it at any of his restaurants. In 2012, Vegas food critic and writer Al Mancini interviewed Ramsay about the topic: "I caught a little bit of flack in this town by pointing out while no casino has shark fin on the menu, they all serve it — because they can't turn away the Asian high-rollers who want it. You're one of my heroes because of what you've done to draw attention to the shark fin trade. Will you stand up to the casinos and refuse to serve shark fin?" Ramsay responded: "I can guarantee you there will be no shark fin soup on my menu. And I won't serve it off the menu for high rollers that have just flown in from China. Absolutely not!"