SHARK AND CHIPS
Did you know shark is routinely sold in UK fish and chip shops? And UK fishmongers? 46 species of shark - including Critically Endangered shark - is sold under six super confusing names - like rock salmon. We tell the story in the one of the film's chapters (below).
We recently launched a UK government petition about this issue. 12,113 people signed. Not only did the government respond, DEFRA met film producer Matt to understand how things could change - and change is imminent! Big up everyone who signed and all the celebs and influencers who got behind this - but special kudos to Megan McCubbin.
Present day, 46 species of shark can be legally sold under any one of 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.
It's hard to know where the names originate from - perhaps there was a time when these were local names, understood specific to certain species. Whatever their origins, today they are unhelpful. Our investigation found people buying and selling shark were often completely unaware they were trading in shark. Rock Salmon and Rock Eel are especially problematic names - understandably people think they are buying salmon and eel. To confuse people further, chippies shorten these names to Rock... but Rockfish refers to all species of Anarhichas. It's a minefield and makes it really hard for customers to buy fish ethically.
So we petitioned the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to improve transparency by tweaking their Commercial Designations of Fish that regulates the names shark can be sold under.
Our undercover investigation 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. Until 2023 Spiny Dogfish was 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 under names like Rock Salmon 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.
Although we would love to see any threatened shark species off UK menus permanently, our current discussions with DEFRA will hopefully:
1. Remove the confusing names Rock Salmon and Rock Eel from menus.
2. See Spiny Dogfish being sold either as Spiny Dogfish or as Spurdog only.
3. Make sure Tope is sold as Tope.
We think these are positive realistic steps in the right direction and are grateful to DEFRA for engaging with us - at least UK consumers will know what they are buying and hopefully decide they don't want to buy shark at all!
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