A large blue shark was "paraded" through the street before it was butchered, cooked and served to the crowd at Plymouth’s seafood festival, prompting criticism from attendees and animal rights groups.
Photographs show the creature held aloft by two men, before it was used in a demonstration on the festival’s main stage.
Blue sharks are listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and there are growing calls for the species to be better protected.
The species migrate to UK waters during the summer as they follow small fish and squid. It is understood the shark was landed as by-catch, when unwanted fish and other marine creatures are caught in nets.
The Ocean Conservation Trust, which runs Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium, led the criticism of the weekend's scenes on the city’s historic Barbican.
Helen Gowans, from the charity, said: “As an ocean conservation charity, we do not condone the eating of blue shark and were disappointed to see that a blue shark was shown off at the ‘catch of the day’ session, as well as being featured on the chef’s stage.”
Members of the public also reacted angrily to the shark’s appearance at the festival.
One Plymouth resident wrote on Facebook: “In a time and city where we are encouraged to help with the protection and conservation of sharks, many people think this is just terrible, especially with shark numbers dwindling.”
A second person added: “Totally out of order, killed and paraded. I thought these days were over.”
Sarah Gibson, chief executive of the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, which organises the seafood festival, said it was "surprised and very disappointed that this year’s event saw the inclusion of a shark which we understand was caught as by-catch at the ‘catch of the day’ session and was featured on the chef’s stage by a contributing organisation.
She added: “We would not have allowed this to proceed if we had known in advance and we have already put measures in place to ensure this will not be allowed to happen again at any of our future events.
“We will continue our work with our partners, including the Ocean Conservation Trust, Environment Plymouth and Seafish to educate about the importance of sustainability and the preservation of the natural blue and green environments including the wildlife around our coast.”
Additional reporting by SWNS
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