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Endangered shark species being sold as food in UK

Endangered shark species being sold as food in UK
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Endangered species of hammerhead and dogfish are among the sharks being sold as food in the UK, according to a study that calls for more accurate...

LONDON: Endangered species of hammerhead and dogfish are among the sharks being sold as food in the UK, according to a study that calls for more accurate labelling so that people know what species they are eating.

Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK sampled shark products from fishmongers and chip shops, as well as shark fins from an Asian food wholesaler in the UK.

The majority of chip shop samples -- usually sold under generic names like huss, rock salmon and rock eel -- were spiny dogfish, a species "endangered" in Europe and "vulnerable" worldwide.

The fin samples included scalloped hammerheads -- endangered globally and subject to international trade restrictions, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"The discovery of endangered hammerhead sharks highlights how widespread the sale of declining species really is -- even reaching Europe and the UK," said Andrew Griffiths, of the University of Exeter.

"Separate investigations focusing on Asia have commonly identified scalloped hammerhead in fin processing. Scalloped hammerhead can be imported under strict conditions, but the wholesaler had no idea what species the fin belonged to," Griffiths said.

The fins from the UK wholesaler, who intended to supply them to UK Asian restaurants and supermarkets, also included other threatened sharks such as shortfin mako and smalleye hammerheads.

The analysis of chip shop samples also identified globally threatened shark species, researchers said.

Fishing for spiny dogfish has been prohibited in most circumstances under EU rules, they said.

The spiny dogfish found in many chip shop samples could have been sourced from more sustainable stocks elsewhere, but it highlights the problems of selling shark meat under "umbrella" terms that cover multiple species.

"It is almost impossible for consumers to know what they are buying," said Catherine Hobbs, also of the University of Exeter.

"People might think they are getting a sustainably sourced product when they are actually buying a threatened species," Hobbs said.

"There are also health issues. 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. Our findings demonstrate the need for more informative and accurate seafood labelling," she said.

As well as spiny dogfish, the researchers found species including starry smooth-hounds, nursehounds and blue sharks on sale in fishmongers and chip shops.

Through "DNA barcoding", the study analysed 78 samples from chip shops and 39 from fishmongers, mostly in southern England, as well as 10 fins from a wholesaler.

It also analysed 30 fins seized by the UK Border Force on their way from Mozambique to Asia.

These came from species including bull sharks.

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