Retired NBA Star Yao Ming Is Saving Sharks From Becoming Shark Fin Soup

Retired Houston Rocket Yao Ming has joined forces with WildAid, an organization that fights the illegal poaching and trading of wildlife, to reduce China's appetite for shark fin soup, an expensive delicacy that is deadly to sharks.

According to data from WildAid, roughly 100 million sharks are killed each year, 73 million of which are then used for shark fin soup — mostly sold in China, but also in Southeast Asia. The practice has reduced some shark populations by 98 percent. Part of the problem, WildAid discovered, was that because the dish is known as "fish wing soup" in Mandarin, 75 percent of Chinese citizens surveyed were not even aware that the dish called for shark fin. Another 19 percent believed that the fins grew back.

To spread awareness about the dangers of shark fin soup to shark populations, WildAid has joined forces with Yao Ming, the Shanghai-born NBA star who, incidentally, played for the Shanghai Sharks as a teenager before joining the Rockets in 2002.

With the help of Ming and other prominent celebrities like David Beckham and actress Maggie Q., China has reportedly seen a 50 to 70 percent decrease in shark fin consumption. Now through 2016, the campaign is hoping to build more public and political support to end the consumption of shark fin soup in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan.