The former NBA star has helped curb China’s consumption of shark fin soup with a campaign of adverts and documentaries exposing how the “delicacy” has made many shark species endangered.
Thanks to Yao’s campaign, support for a shark fin soup ban has skyrocketed in China
Back in 2011, NBA Hall of Famer and GOAT of Chinese basketball, Yao Ming, became the face of an awareness campaign on shark fin consumption that has been instrumental in challenging what sceptics thought was an untouchable pillar of Chinese gastronomy — most recent government surveys found shark fin consumption in China has fallen by up to 80% during that period.
How many sharks are killed specifically for shark fin soup every year?
Fins from as many as 73 million sharks end up in the global shark fin trade every year. — say Oceana.org
In 2006 as many as 75% of Chinese citizens were unaware that shark fin soup, directly translated as “fish-wing soup” even came from sharks. By 2013, public perception of shark fin soup had drastically changed.
An independent iResearch survey in 2013 found that 82% of respondents said they would stop their consumption of shark fin soup, a direct result of Ming’s awareness campaigns.
Having changed perceptions of sharks fin soup Yao then took on China’s ivory trade… and won!
Shark fin consumption in China has fallen by up to 80% in the last 10 years — almost the exact same period of time as Yao Ming’s activism on the issue.
Partnering with anti-wildlife trade organisation WildAid, Yao got the public to pay attention. The traction and publicity Yao brings to causes across television and social media is decidedly influential: Forbes named Yao as China’s most powerful celebrity for the six consecutive years from 2004 to 2009.
And just like he did for shark fin soup, Yao successfully took on China’s ivory trade and used his platform to campaign against elephant poaching — as of January last year, all trade in ivory-made products is now illegal in China.
Chinese state media Xinhua described the run-up to the ban as “one of the largest ever public awareness campaigns” with support from other celebrities such as actress Li Bingbing.
But Yao isn’t celebrating just yet. “We all know that there is ‘on paper,’ and under the paper, there’s still a long way to go to save the animals — and then save ourselves,” he told CNBC.
In a strange quirk of fate, Yao was a member of the pro basketball team the Shanghai Sharks earlier on in his career. Now thanks to his activism, the lives of millions of sharks have been saved.
Become a SharkSaver
Shark Savers, a program of WildAid, is dedicated to saving sharks and mantas through building awareness, education, and action. Founded in 2007 by divers with a shared passion, our mission is to save the world’s dwindling shark and manta populations. Today, more than 25,000 members from 99 nations share that passion. Find out more.