Yao Ming shoots PSA opposing shark fin soup

This Feb. 14, 2011 file photo shows a bowl of shark fin soup being served at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown.

May 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The push to ban shark fins in California has received a celebrity endorsement that could influence public opinion, especially in the Chinese American community.

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is a super star on and off the court, especially in the Chinese community. So people listen when he makes a public service announcement, like the one he filmed in San Francisco Thursday.

The PSA is the second in a series of for the shanghai-born Yao, who is campaigning against shark finning, the practice of cutting off a sharks fins to use them in soup, a luxury dish in Chinese restaurants.

Yao has joined with the organization Wild Aid, promising he will never eat it again and he is urging others to do the same.

But an expert at the Chinese Historical Society says the soup has been an esteemed delicacy for centuries. A proposed ban on shark fins chips away at tradition.

"That sort of thing is one of the dozens of little things people use to erode someone's cultural identity," Charlie Chin said.

But it is Asian American Assm. Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, who is co-author of the legislation to ban the sale and possession of shark fins.

"A culture giving up a soup is minor compared to the major disaster that could happen to our environment if sharks leave the ocean," Fong said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who has said he opposes a ban, was more open Thursday.

"I'm willing to learn what it is that people are suggesting is the objective of banning and I'm open to that," he said.

A statewide poll of Chinese American opinions about the ban is expected to be released Friday.