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UK Fish And Chip Shops Serve Endangered Shark Species, Study Claims

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A new study found that fishmongers and fish and chip stores in England are selling endangered shark products by using generic sales terms. The find highlights the role of trade in the declining shark populations.

Fish And Chips

The researchers of a new study tested 117 fish samples from 90 retailers in the UK, 78 of which were battered and fried samples from fish and chip shops while 39 were either frozen or fresh samples from fishmongers. They also had 10 dried shark fins samples from UK wholesalers.

DNA analysis of the products sold by fishmongers and in fish and chip shops revealed that a majority of them are actually meat from endangered sharks but had non-specific labels. Specifically, even if most of them were sold under “umbrella” labels that are permitted by the EU such as rock salmon, flake, and huss, a majority of them were actually meat from endangered shark species. In fact, 77 of the samples turned out to be spiny dogfish, which is considered critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic.

Furthermore, the shark fins being sold by British retailers were found to be from the threatened scalloped hammerhead shark as well as vulnerable species such as the smalleye hammerhead and the shortfin mako.

Consumer Choice

The results showed that while the products aren’t exactly mislabeled, they were categorized under umbrella terms and are therefore being sold without giving consumers the specifics of what they are actually buying. In other European countries, specific labeling is required, and researchers surmise that it might be about time for the UK to do the same.

This way, even consumers will actually know what is being presented to them and can make informed decisions on whether to buy it or not.

According to researchers, sharks are particularly in decline because they take a long time to reach sexual maturity and produce fewer young. It doesn’t help either that many shark species are being exploited. In the case of the spiny dogfish, for instance, while the EU prohibits catching them because of their vulnerable nature, the United States and Canada allow it and therefore continue to export the catches to the UK.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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