The man whose book spawned the movie classic Jaws yesterday urged diners to cut back on shark's fin soup, saying the huge consumption here and on the mainland is decimating entire species of the fish. Peter Benchley, who has teamed up with conservation groups to protect the animal he portrayed in the 1970s film as a ruthless man-eater, said as many as 20 million sharks were killed each year to supply demand for fins here. He said this amounted to one-fifth of all those killed worldwide, and that taking such vast numbers of animals from the top of the food chain was tampering dangerously with the ocean's natural balance. 'Last year alone, 6,000 tonnes of shark fin passed through Hong Kong for local consumption and for export, representing somewhere around 20 million sharks,' Mr Benchley said. 'We know that Hong Kong is the largest single importer of shark's fin in the world. Every bowl of shark's fin soup involves killing a living animal. The fins do not grow back, the animals die. 'All we'd like to do is share the information we have and encourage consumers to eat less shark's fin soup. The increase [in consumption] has been so enormous in the past few years that some species of shark have been reduced by 80 to 90 per cent. If this keeps up, species will be wiped out. Asia is critical to the survival of most shark species.' Mr Benchley is in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of Jaws and the release of the film on DVD. He is working with local group EarthCare and international conservation body WildAid to promote the protection of sharks. 'In the 25 years since Jaws came out, I and the rest of the world have learned a great many things about sharks. We've learnt that because of modern technology and a growing population, the sharks are much more the victims than the villains,' he said. WildAid director Peter Knights said they were hoping to change schoolchildren's perceptions about shark's fin soup. His group is pushing for a worldwide ban on 'finning', in which fishermen cut off sharks' fins then throw the animals back in the water, where they drown or bleed to death and the rest of their carcass is wasted. 'It's very difficult to change entrenched behaviour and we're not kidding ourselves that we've got an easy task ahead,' he said. 'Rather than wait 10 or 15 years until sharks are devastated and we have to have bans and things like that, we need to start now to reduce demand so shark fisheries can be sustainable for the future.' A spokeswoman for the Federation of Hong Kong Restaurant Owners said yesterday she did not expect local diners' appetites for shark's fin soup to change in a hurry. 'I think people will keep on eating it - Chinese people don't care about the sharks,' she said. 'People say 'this is none of my business and I like eating it, so I'll keep on eating it'. They don't care about the consequences.'