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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Yao Ming Saves the Sharks!!
Yao buys Shanghai Sharks and releases public message against shark fin soup

XXXX SHANGHAI, CHINA, December 21, 2009 --/WORLD-WIRE/--NBA star Yao Ming watched his first game as the new owner of the Shanghai Sharks basketball team, the team he used to play for before moving to the NBA. In the morning he released a new public service announcement and billboard campaign with international conservation group WildAid www.wildaid.org. The campaign is supported by a grant from Shark Savers, the organization that also created online and grassroots components of the campaign. www.sharkavers.org.

The message shows Yao in a restaurant with a giant aquarium being offered shark fin soup. Yao looks into the aquarium and sees real footage of a live tawny nurse shark dumped on an Indonesian reef with its fins removed to supply the soup trade. Yao and his fellow diners promptly push away the soup.

“This footage is definitive proof that sharks are being finned alive for soup,” said Peter Knights, Director of WildAid. "There is currently no law on the books in the U.S. to stop poached finned sharks from ending up in a bowl of soup here.”

”Most people don’t know that shark fin soup can be dangerous to humans, sharks, and the oceans. This campaign doesn’t just tell them, but also gives people the tools to join Yao Ming and bring the ‘say no to shark fin soup’ message into their communities.” said Shark Savers’ Executive Director Michael Skoletsky. The new multi-media and grassroots campaign is being released in China and around the world.

Fins from up to 70 million sharks a year are used for shark fin soup often with the rest of the body dumped overboard dead or alive. Shark poaching is rife in marine protected areas, such as the Galapagos Islands and Cocos Island. A recent study by the world's top shark scientists (IUCN Shark Specialist Group) reported that of 64 species of open ocean sharks and rays 32% are “threatened with extinction,” primarily due to overfishing. In addition, 24% were “near threatened,” while another 25% could not be assessed due to lack of data. Sharks are highly vulnerable to overfishing due to their late maturity and slow reproduction. Globally shark catches are unregulated or unsustainable. The shark fin trade is unregulated worldwide.

In China, there is a growing groundswell of opposition to shark finning. In addition to NBA star and China's most popular figure, Yao Ming, being featured in this campaign, other Chinese sporting and movie icons and leading businessmen are taking a stand by refusing to eat shark fin soup. Li Ning, who lit the Olympic torch and Liu Huan, who sang in the Beijing Opening ceremony, and a number of gold medal Olympians, including Americans Tara Kirk and Amanda Beard, have pledged not to eat shark fin soup and have recorded public service announcements, which have reached hundreds of millions of Chinese. The campaign has been featured on China's CCTV networks featuring 20 Olympic gold medalists. Last month, 100 Chinese business leaders joined the pledge and Chinese E Bay equivalent Alibaba stopped allowing sales of shark fin through their site.

"We must ban shark fin imports unless it comes from a properly managed sustainable fishery that prohibits the wasteful and barbaric practice of shark finning,” said Knights. “Sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, but at the current rate of overfishing they could be wiped out in a single human generation.”

Yao Ming :30 http://www.youtube.com/wildaid

Say ‘no’ to shark fin soup web site: http://www.wildaidchina.org/shark/index.php?lang=en

CONTACT:
Peter Knights,
WildAid
415-254-3174

Michael Skoletsky,
Shark Savers
michael.skoletsky@sharksavers.org