Chinese superstars Jackie Chan and Yao Ming have called on global consumers to quit buying products sourced from wild animals.
Jackie Chan and Yao Ming want you to stop buying shark’s fin
In billboard ads, they urge people to boycott anything made of ivory, rhino horn or shark fin.
The global campaign, a joint effort from conservation organization WildAid and ad company JCDecaux, also features Prince William and Richard Branson. By the end of this year, the ads will be displayed in more than 10 countries.
China is a big focus of the campaign. More than 600 billboards featuring former NBA player Yao have already been displayed in Beijing and other major cities.
Even though shark fin doesn't taste of anything and contains little nutritional value, it is considered a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, and seen as a symbol of wealth and prestige.
Greater China (which includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) was once the biggest market for shark fin, accounting for 95% of global consumption.
Yao has been fronting similar ads since 2006.
And they are working: a reversal in shark fin consumption in China is one of the biggest success stories in wildlife conservation.
Shark fin consumption in mainland China has fallen by about 80% since 2011, according to government data.
In 2013, WildAid conducted another survey in four major Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. About 85% of respondents said they had not eaten shark's fin soup in three years, and two-thirds said the celebrity awareness campaign was the reason they had given it up.
"There is no doubt that powerful celebrity endorsement from Jackie Chan, Yao Ming and Richard Branson helped us put a huge dent into shark fin demand in China," WildAid Hong Kong campaigner Alex Hofford told Inkstone.
The perception of shark fins among the Chinese population has shifted dramatically.
When WildAid first started its campaign against shark fin consumption in 2006, campaigners found that lack of awareness was a huge problem.
Since the Chinese term for shark's fin soup is "fish wing soup," most of those polled had no idea that the delicacy actually came from real sharks, and a significant number believed that the fins removed from the sharks would grow back.
In fact, in a process known as “finning,” sharks have their fins cut off before they are thrown back into the water to die.
In TV ads and social media posts, Yao and Chan educated the Chinese public about the shark-finning process and the environmental consequences of consuming shark fin.
Apart from harnessing star power, President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive, which forbids officials from staging lavish banquets, also helped lower demand.
But a new demand has emerged, according to campaigners.
"The significant decline in demand for fins in China is offset by expanding and emerging markets outside of the mainland, including in Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand," states a report released by WildAid in February.
The battle to protect sharks is not over yet.