Endangered shark species being sold as food in UK

London Greater London England United Kingdom Europe

The researchers tested 117 tissue samples from 90 different retailers in the United Kingdom: 78 from fish and chip shops, which were battered and fried when collected, and 39 from fishmongers, which were either fresh or frozen.

The researchers also found spiny dogfish being sold at fish mongers although in far small proportions than chip shops.

This makes it much harder for buyers to know the origin - and the species - of the fish, suggesting the chip shops are unaware of the scale of endangered fish they appear to be selling, researchers said.

They also bought 10 "dried, skinned and bleached" shark fins from UK wholesalers, and obtained a further 30 from the UK Customs Agency.

"There are also health issues".

Consumers concerned about buying endangered shark meat should ensure they ask questions about their seafood's provenance, Hood advised.

Scientists tested meat passed off under umbrella names such as huss, rock salmon and rock eel, finding a majority came from sharks, including those native to Britain, which are protected because of declining numbers. "Knowing what species you are buying could be important in terms of allergies, toxins, mercury content and the growing concern over microplastics in the marine food chain", said Hobbs.

The fins sampled at the food wholesaler included scalloped hammerheads, which are classed as globally "endangered" and subject to strict worldwide trade restrictions.

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Tests were carried out across the south of England.

Fins are more hard to label because they are removed as soon as the sharks are caught but Hobbs said there was still an issue with "certain fishermen who don't specifically adhere to the laws of labelling" when fish are landed.

The dried and processed fins from the Asian wholesaler that were studied were meant to end up in Chinese takeaways and specialist supermarkets.

The species also made up 16 per cent of the 39 samples from fishmongers. They used a process known as DNA barcoding to identify the species.

Meanwhile 25 per cent of samples were shortfin mako and 13 per cent smalleye hammerheads - both classified threatened species. "Scalloped hammerhead can be imported under strict conditions, but the wholesaler had no idea what species the fin belonged to".

'Separate investigations focusing on Asia have commonly identified scalloped hammerhead in fin processing'.

He added that the alarming findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, "highlight the global nature of the damaging trade in endangered shark species, in which Europe and the United Kingdom have a continuing role".

"The discovery of endangered hammerhead sharks highlights how widespread the sale of declining species really is - even reaching Europe and the United Kingdom", said Dr Andrew Griffiths, who co-authored the research.

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