Yao and Branson call for shark's fin ban in China

Yao and Branson call for shark's fin ban in China

Former NBA star and airline tycoon lobby Chinese millionaires to put down their spoons
Yao Ming -- Richard Branson -- Shark Fin
Two (wealthy) giants plead: get shark's fin off the table.

Yao Ming is taking a step up in fighting against the consumption of shark fins.

The recently retired basketball star teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson -- the founder and of Virgin Atlantic -- to launch a campaign yesterday in Shanghai, urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins.

The press conference was held in Shanghai’s URBN Hotel, and 30 of China's richest and most influential businesspeople were invited to attend. 

Yao Ming said …

Organized by San Francisco-based NGO WildAid, the campaign is aimed at starting a conservation movement in China, which now makes up 95 percent of the world's shark's fin market. Chinese people generally regard eating shark's fin soup as a sign of wealth.

"When demand happens, the buying happens and the killing happens," Yao told the Washington Post.

Yao, who was reportedly worth an estimation of US$103 million according to the Financial Times in July, gave up eating shark's fin in 2006. (Watch Yao Ming’s anti-shark's fin soup video on YouTube.)

More on CNNGo: Is a shark's fin ban anti-Chinese?

He has made it clear that he would avoid events where shark's fin soup is served. Yao has since become the shark's fin campaign ambassador for WildAid, whose mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade.

“The shark is a kind of animal that has longer existence than human beings,” said Yao Ming. “Now for a small bowl of shark's fin soup, we are killing almost all of them.”

Some 73 million sharks are killed for shark's fin soup every year around the world at the rate of 1.5 million per week, which has pushed some shark species toward extinction.

Branson said …

British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, who has an estimated net worth of approximately US$4.2 billion, stepped up for the shark conservation campaign after swimming with whale sharks during their annual migration through the Gulf of Mexico this August.

"It’d be incredibly sad to see sharks disappearing and some other of the beautiful species disappearing including tiger and lemur," said Branson.

To obtain shark fins, fishermen slice off fins from a live shark and discard the mutilated body in the ocean, where it is condemned to a slow agonising death.

More on CNNGo: Sir Richard Branson's paradise island

"There's been a massive increase in shark's fin soup and the killing of sharks," added Branson.

"The world is getting wealthier, particularly in China people are getting wealthier, and they can now afford to buy shark's fin soup."

Branson’s airline has banned the transport of shark fins.

China’s action

The press conference venue, URBN Hotel, is China’s first carbon-neutral hotel and does not serve shark's fin soup.

About 20 countries and regions have imposed regulations on slicing shark fins or commercial shark fishing.

Any shark fishing in China needs to be licensed by the authorities in advance, and China imposed import taxes on shark-related products from November, 2004.

But the country has yet to ban shark fishing or shark's fin consumption.