BE THE CHANGE
Did you know shark is routinely sold in UK fish and chip shops? And UK fishmongers? We tell the story in one of the film's chapters. Now we're petitioning the UK government about it too. UK residents can sign the petition below.
Shark is sold under six misleading names: Rock Salmon, Rock Eel, Huss, Flake, Rigg or Dogfish. During our UK filming, we worked with the Daily Mirror and DNA experts at Exeter University to find out what’s really beneath the batter.
The biggest shock of all was that the people buying and selling shark were often completely unaware they were trading in shark. Our campaign is petitioning the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to improve transparency at any point of sale by tweaking their Commercial Designations of Fish that regulates the names shark can be sold under.
The problem originates from a time when traditional names were locally understood in the UK. Today, any one of six names (above) could be used to sell any of 46 species of shark in 4 genuses. That’s very confusing for someone buying a fish listed as, say, Rock Eel or Rock Salmon. Consumers would naturally think they are buying eel or salmon.
Our results fed into a bigger study by the University of Exeter. 94 DNA samples show an 86% chance of being served Spiny Dogfish in a chippy when ordering fish listed under the six names. Spiny Dogfish is illegal to catch as a targeted species in Europe. On the IUCN’s Red List, Spiny Dogfish is Vulnerable (to extinction) globally and Critically Endangered in the NE Atlantic.
Spiny Dogfish in the UK is typically imported and the IUCN say European demand continues to fuel markets around the world.
Spiny Dogfish are long-lived sharks that reproduce very slowly. There’s a generational gap of between 25-40 years, similar to humans. Scientists report a decline of >30% in their global population over the last 75 years (which, from a Spiny Dogfish's point of view, is just three generations).
Another shark you may be accidentally buying is Tope. That’s Critically Endangered globally and Vulnerable (to extinction) in Europe. For comparison, orangutans and gorillas are also Critically Endangered globally.
We are sure people in the UK don’t want to accidentally eat Critically Endangered species.
That’s why we’re asking DEFRA to change the rules and only allow sharks to be sold in the UK under their most common name. This simple step would decrease demand and give threatened shark populations a chance to recover.
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