Endangered sharks being sold as food in UK

Shark fins examined in the alarming study

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 shark most commonly found to be sold in the fish and chip shops investigated was spiny dogfish, which were illegal to catch in Europe until 2011.

"People might think they're getting a sustainably sourced product when they're actually buying a threatened species", she said.

Although the European Union prohibited the fishing of spiny dogfish (or Squalus acanthias) in its waters in 2011, fisheries in the United States and Canada in particular continue to export catches to the UK.

Most of the rock salmon sold in chip shops is an endangered species of shark known as the spiny dogfish, researchers have found. "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".

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

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 analysis of chip shop samples also identified globally threatened shark species.

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The researchers sampled more than 150 different shark products from fishmongers and chippies in the south of England between February 2016 and November 2017, including London, Hampshire, Devon and Somerset.

For the first time in Europe, shark fins from a nationwide Asian food wholesaler destined for restaurants and supermarkets were also analysed using mini bar codes.

These were seized at the United Kingdom border, originating in Mozambique and en route to Asia.

The shocking find was made using "DNA barcoding', a method that uses a designated portion of a specific gene to identify an organism to 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'.

Fin samples included scalloped hammerheads, which are endangered globally and subject to worldwide tread restrictions, according to the researchers.

Senior author Andrew Griffiths, a lecturer in biological science at the University of Exeter, told CNN that sharks are particularly at risk of population decline thanks to their slow rate of reproduction.


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