NBA Star Yao Ming Swears Off Shark Fin Soup

China's most famous athlete has declared that he will never again eat shark fin soup. "I pledge to stop eating sharks fin soup and will not do so under all circumstances," Yao Ming said at a media conference hosted by WildAid in London on August 3.

"Endangered species are our friends," Yao said at the news conference.

WildAid is an organization dedicated to protecting endangered wildlife. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and WildAid work cooperatively in the Galapagos Islands to oppose shark fin poachers.

The Sea Shepherd office in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos is directly next door to the WildAid office and both organizations are in the Galapagos to support the Galapagos National Park.

China is the world's largest importer of shark fins, a trade that threatens numerous species of sharks with extinction.

"As the human population increases, many wildlife species are decreasing, and the primary reason is that humans fail to treat animals as friends," said Yao, who played for the Shanghai Sharks basketball team before moving to the Houston Rockets.

The United Nations estimates that more than 100 million sharks are caught annually for fins and other body parts.

"China alone can save the sharks," said Steve Trent, president of WildAid. "If sharks are to survive we need to see a decline in shark fin consumption and new actions by government to control imports and consumption."

Hong Kong imported 11,662 tons of dried shark fin in 2003, most of which were shipped to mainland China, according to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring group.

Yao also is to appear in a conservation advertising campaign for wildlife other than sharks.

A television commercial shown at Yao's news conference features the 7-foot-1 inch (2.16-meter) center jumping up from a basketball court to block a bullet fired at an elephant. The commercial will be shown on Chinese state television and on international broadcasts.

Gymnast Li Ning, an Olympic gold medalist, and musician Liu Huan both signed a petition with Yao for wildlife protection.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society salutes Yao Ming who along with Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh have become outspoken defenders of wildlife.