Yao Ming Urges Countrymen to Give Up Shark Fin Soup

Posted September 22nd, 2011 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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Retired basketball star Yao Ming is using his incredible popularity in China to try to discourage his countrymen from eating shark fin soup.

Yao appeared at a news conference in Shanghai Thursday alongside British business tycoon Richard Branson and representatives of the wildlife protection group WildAid.

Yao encouraged about 30 top business leaders in attendance to help lead the campaign to save sharks, some species of which are being hunted into extinction for their fins.

The sale of shark fins has already been banned in Canada as well as California and several other American states. But they remain legal and very popular in most of Asia, particularly in China.

Conservation groups say sharks are being slaughtered at a rate of 1.5 million a week to meet the demand for the fins, which sell for more than $300 a kilo in Shanghai's seafood markets.

Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said the problem is growing worse because of China's growing prosperity.

The conservation groups say sharks play a crucial role in the ecology of the ocean and there will be far-reaching consequences if they are hunted to extinction.

Yao, who retired from the National Basketball Association this year, has been a goodwill ambassador for WildAid since 2006.