International conservation organization WildAid, Chinese basketball star and WildAid Ambassador, Yao Ming, and leading Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yue have joined forces with British entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson and his non-profit foundation Virgin Unite, in a global campaign to save sharks. Branson and Yao filmed public service announcements in support of WildAid’s shark campaign drawing attention to the increasing demand for shark fin soup and the devastating effect this demand is having on global shark populations. The messages will broadcast across national and international media via WildAid’s pro-bono media network, beginning today and are available at wildaid.org/sharks.
Yao Ming committed to stop eating shark fin soup in 2006 after learning of the cruel and wasteful practice of “‘finning”’ and the threat of extinction facing many shark populations as a result of demand for their fins. He has been an Ambassador for WildAid’s shark campaign ever since. Yao says, “I urge China to lead by banning shark fin soup, and I urge business leaders to end the consumption of shark fin soup at business events. Unless we act now, we will lose many shark populations, impacting our oceans worldwide.”
Sir Richard Branson is backing the shark conservation campaign after swimming with whale sharks during their annual migration through the Gulf of Mexico. Branson says, “I simply cannot imagine a world without sharks – we cannot let this happen. These important predators have swum in the world’s oceans for some 400 million years, yet we could wipe them out in a single generation. We have to act now to step up protection worldwide.”
In the United States - Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Guam and the Marshall Islands have banned sales of shark fin. The Californian Senate passed a ban on Sept 6th, which is awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. In Canada, a number of cities are considering a ban including Toronto, and a nationwide ban was recently proposed. Shark fishing bans have been passed in Palau and the Bahamas, and one is pending in Fiji.
Every year, fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup. In a cruel and wasteful practice called “‘finning,”’ sharks are often caught, hauled on deck, with their fins sliced off while they are still alive. The rest of the shark is usually thrown back into the sea, dead or dying, with approximately 95% of the shark wasted. The ongoing and increasing demand for shark fin soup is pushing many species to the brink of extinction, further threatening marine ecosystems the world over. Yao and Branson today launched the campaign with WildAid and met with representatives of government, media, NGO’s and business to engage their support to prevent the extinction of shark species.