New startling research undertaken by the University of Exeter has found that fish and chip shops and fishmongers are selling endangered sharks to the public unknowningly according DNA barcoding that was utizilized to identify species on sale.
Most of the fish being sold under generic names such as Huss, rock, flake and rock salmon actually turned to to be spiny dogfish, a species of shark that is actually classified as endangered in Europe by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list. Other species found in the fish shops included starry smooth-hounds, nurse hounds and blue sharks.
It was illegal to catch spiny dogfish in the EU until 2011 but the shark is now allowed to be sold when caught as a product of bycatch.
The researchers also found fins of shark species unknowingly sold by a British wholesaler. Species being sold included scalloped hammerheads, a globally endangered species, as well as shorten mako and small eye hammerhead sharks.
The study analyzed 78 samples from fish and chip chops and 39 fishmongers, mostly in southern England. As well, samples were collected from 10 shark fins from a wholesaler that sells them to restaurants and specialist supermarket.
Current UK laws allows certain shark species to be sold under long-used generic names such as rock but the researchers from the University of Exeter are calling on the government for more accurate labeling that specifically identify the species of fish being eaten.
The low level of mislabelling identified in the current study does not reveal the whole story, as current labelling legislation in EU establishes the obligation to indicate not only the commercial name, but also the species of fresh, frozen, smoked and dried seafood products.
Fins on the other hand are much more difficult to label as fisherman remove the fins from the sharks as soon as they can and some fisherman fail to adhere to proper procedural laws of labeling.
“The discovery of endangered hammerhead sharks highlights how widespread the sale of declining species really is – even reaching Europe and the UK,” said Dr Andrew Griffiths, also of the University of Exeter. “Scalloped hammerhead can be imported under strict conditions, but the wholesaler had no idea what species the fin belonged to.”
Shark species worldwide are sharply decline from overfishing, with the majority of it from within the fin industry.
If you live in the United Kingdom, please immediately call your representatives and demand that proper labeling laws be put in place or the sale of shark to unknowing customers will continue.