Just a few years ago, most Chinese people were oblivious to the environmental problems caused by eating shark fin soup, reports the Washington Post. But thanks to widespread public awareness campaigns, backed by celebrities and business leaders, the country is finally losing its appetite for the dish, and both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have now banned the soup from official functions. "People said it was impossible to change China, but the evidence we are now getting says consumption of shark fin soup in China is down by 50% to 70% in the last two years," says a spokesperson for conservation group WildAid. "It is a myth that people in Asia don’t care about wildlife. Consumption is based on ignorance rather than malice."
One major face of WildAid's anti-shark fin soup campaign has been former NBA star Yao Ming, who appears in one English-language ad saying, "When the buying stops, the killing can too." New York Times environment reporter Andrew Revkin offers a first-hand account of watching TV stars appear at a mall to announce "I'm finished with fins." All month, celebs and citizens have been posting photos of themselves covering their mouths on social media service Sina Weibo. The director of WildAid's Chinese office tells him the campaign has been imperative, because the Chinese name for the soup doesn't actually contain the word "shark." But the problem isn't solved yet—Peruvian shark fin sales to Asia are on the rise, leading to an annual death rate of 15,000 among dolphins, which are being used as bait, Phys.org reports. (Read more shark fin soup stories.)