Today, GrubHub announced that it would no longer permit restaurants to offer shark fin products through its online food-ordering service. Oceana commends GrubHub for demonstrating its commitment to shark conservation and for helping us to take an important step toward ending the indiscriminate killing of sharks.
Last year, an Oceana investigation found that shark fin soup was widely available from restaurants listed on GrubHub. After Oceana and its supporters wrote to GrubHub asking the company to take shark fins off the menu, GrubHub agreed to delist shark fin products in the nine states where their trade is illegal. Unfortunately, GrubHub continued to include shark fin soup on menus in other states.
In response, I co-authored an op-ed with January Jones, acclaimed actress and spokesperson for Oceana’s campaign to save sharks. We called on GrubHub to take shark fin soup off the menu entirely and asked ocean advocates to join us. More than 3,000 people joined a social media thunderclap, generating Tweets and Facebook posts that reached almost 1.9 million people. At the same time, an online petition sent to our members got more than 34,000 signatures.
Now GrubHub has responded, and its admirable decision to eliminate shark fin soup from all its menus will have an impact; GrubHub and its affiliates include more than 35,000 restaurants across 900 cities.
Finning is a serious threat to sharks around the world. It is a wasteful, harmful practice in which less than five percent of the shark is even used — once a shark’s fins are cut off at sea, the shark is tossed back into the water to drown. And global demand for shark fin soup is leading to the deaths of millions of these animals: estimates put the death toll at somewhere between 26 and 73 million sharks each year.
This grim practice has led to sharp declines in recent decades. For example, the North Atlantic populations of oceanic whitetip sharks dropped by an estimated 70 percent in the 1990s, and scalloped hammerhead shark populations have declined by 83 percent in the Northwest Atlantic since the 1980s.
But these are animals that deserve our protection. Sharks are typically slow-growing, long-lived animals that give birth to few young, making it all too easy for them to be overfished – and extending the length of time a population needs to recover. Sharks also play a crucial role in the food chain. As apex predators, they maintain healthy and balanced marine ecosystems.
Oceana has been fighting to save sharks, and has already won shark fin trade ban victories in ten states. While shark finning is illegal in U.S. waters, the practice continues elsewhere around the world. Enacting shark fin trade bans here closes our markets to these products, reducing global demand. In June, Texas joined California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon, and Washington in prohibiting the possession or sale of shark fins. In addition to shark fin trade bans, Oceana is continuing to push for reforms that will reduce bycatch in commercial fisheries and limit the recreational hunting of protected sharks.
We are fighting to save sharks for the next generation. Our aim is to curb shark finning, prohibit direct targeting of endangered shark species, establish scientific management of fisheries to help protect sharks, and end the illegal wildlife trafficking of vulnerable sharks. GrubHub’s announcement this week moves us closer to achieving these goals, and we applaud its decision.
For the oceans,
Chief Executive Officer