Why sharks may have had their chips

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

Conservationists are calling for sharks to be taken off the menu in Britain's restaurants, saying they fear for the survival of the 450 million-year-old fish.

Conservationists are calling for sharks to be taken off the menu in Britain's restaurants, saying they fear for the survival of the 450 million-year-old fish.

Increasing demand for the fish, now on sale everywhere from high street stores to workplace canteens, is causing concern among animal protection groups.

The trend, which is portrayed as a healthy alternative to meat by the seafood industry, means an estimated 270,000 sharks are killed every day to satisfy consumer demand.

While only 12 of the estimated 400 species of shark are considered dangerous to humans, about 100 are commercially traded.

According to the Sea Fish Industry Authority, sales of shark meat in Britain are still so small compared to other species that they don't record "consumption data".

Despite the industry's perception that demand is small, conservation groups fear that many species could be wiped out by 2017.

It takes many years for a shark to reach sexual maturity - almost 30 years in the case of the sand bank shark. The low reproductive rate means that depleted populations can take a very long time to recover.

"If consumer demand fell, the need to hunt these fantastic creatures would diminish," said Graham Buckingham, campaign director of Bite-Back, the shark protection charity.

"The demand for shark meat is becoming more widespread from high-street retailers to gastro-pubs. The abhorrent and unsustainable number of sharks being slaughtered is dictated purely by consumer demand.

"Only when we remove demand for shark meat and fins can we have a positive effect on lowering the number of sharks needlessly slaughtered every year."

He said shark meals were being promoted by celebrity chefs, such as Rick Stein, who includes shark recipes in at least three of his cookery books. Mr Buckingham said: "By doing that, he is failing to see the wider picture on what it means to conservation."

Among the most popular dishes, especially in Asian countries, is shark fin soup, a high status dish that can sell for £65 a bowl.

Conservationists estimate that about 100 million sharks are caught each year, many of them purely for use in shark fin soup.

About 30 per cent of shark meat caught within European waters is exported to Far East markets but demand is also growing at home.

It is estimated that last year more than 3,300 tons of shark meat and fins were consumed in Britain alone, putting increasing pressure on the 28 species of shark, including blue, spurdog, basking, thresher, porbeagle, tope and dogfish ("rock salmon"), which inhabit UK waters.

A few months ago Asda, one of the UK's biggest supermarket retailers, removed shark meat from 190 stores after a sustained e-mail campaign by Bite-Back. Asda used to sell almost 100,000 portions of mako and big-eye thresher shark every year.

Comments