Expert Voices

Doorstep Delivery of Shark Fin Soup Is in Bad Taste (Op-Ed)

(Image credit: Flickr user chee.hong)

Jacqueline Savitz is vice president for U.S. oceans at Oceana. Savitz contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Can one person make a difference in helping restore the health of our oceans? What about one person and her closest Facebook friends? On January 28, Oceana coordinated thousands of Twitter and Facebook posts in a campaign to ask online menu-delivery service GrubHub to stop offering shark fin products on its menus nationwide.

Last fall, Oceana discovered that one of the fastest-growing online food delivery companies — GrubHub, and its subsidiaries Seamless, All Menus and Menu Pages, which operate in more than 600 U.S. cities and served more than 4 million people last year — still service restaurants that offer shark fin products on their menus, even in states where the dish was illegal. 

Shark fin soup, a popular Chinese delicacy, has driven up the global demand for the fins, sparking a worldwide decline in many shark species. In order to harvest shark fins, a shark is pulled aboard a fishing vessel and its fins are sliced off while the shark is still alive, and then it's thrown back overboard dead or dying. The brutal process not only wastes the rest of shark, but also kills sharks, which are a vital component of the marine ecosystem . It is estimated that 73 million sharks are killed every year to supply the demand for shark fin soup.

After 11,000 supporters petitioned GrubHub last fall to take shark fin products off the menu, GrubHub agreed to fix the problem in the nine states where it is illegal, yet they have stopped short of dropping those listings nationwide. GrubHub should do the right thing and completely remove restaurants that offer shark fin soup on their menus in order to decrease the demand for shark fins. By doing so, GrubHub would join the ranks of successful companies such as Disney, Amazon, Hilton, Marriott and the Starwood hotel group that have used their influence to take a stand on shark finning.

Since 2010, shark finning has been prohibited in the United States, in addition to the nine states and three territories that have banned the selling and possession of fins. By decreasing the demand for fins in the United States, we can put a significant dent in the global fin market and ultimately reduce the number of sharks that are killed every year for their fins. 

Some shark populations have declined by as much as 99 percent in the last few decades due to overfishing and shark finning. From both ecological and culinary standpoints, shark fin soup isn't worth it. [Scientists Focusing on the Wrong Sharks in the Wrong Places (Op-Ed )]

By "donating" a post on Twitter or Facebook through Thunderclap, supporters can tell GrubHub to take shark fins completely off the menu. On Wednesday, everyone who signed up will automatically have a social media message posted at noon EST, sending a loud, thunderous message GrubHub can't ignore. While thousands have already signed up, we can use as many social media "donations" as possible so that we can make waves in saving sharks worldwide.  

More than 3,000 supporters "donated" a post on Twitter or Facebook through Thunderclap in order to tell Grubhub to take shark fins completely off the menu. The automated messages went out at noon EST, reaching nearly 1.9 million combined followers, sending a loud, thunderous message GrubHub can't ignore.

Sharks have survived in our oceans for millions of years, yet they've finally met a threat they can't fight against — humans. Please add your own voice and make sure we keep shark fins off U.S. menus. Oceana thanks those who donated their online voice to saving sharks; it is now up to GrubHub to respond by making sure they keep shark fins off U.S. menus. 

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on FacebookTwitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.