The spiny dogfish is being sold under names such as huss, rock salmon and rock eel © Getty Images
The spiny dogfish is being sold under names such as huss, rock salmon and rock eel © Getty Images

UK chip shops selling endangered sharks

1 February 2019

Endangered shark species are being sold in fishmongers and chip shops in the UK, a study has warned.

The study, conducted by the University of Exeter, said the UK had played a continued role in the damaging trade in endangered shark species.

Researchers used “DNA barcoding” to analyse a sample of shark products destined for restaurants, as well as shark fins from an Asian food wholesaler in the UK.

Out of the 117 samples analysed from chip shops and fishmongers, the study found that spiny dogfish, a species considered endangered in Europe and vulnerable worldwide, accounted for almost 90% of the samples gathered from chip shops. The species is usually sold under generic names such as huss, rock salmon and rock eel.

While many of the samples were probably imported from locations with sustainable sources and the generic naming of the shark meat is legal, the report argued that it highlights a problem with selling the species under an umbrella name, as its almost impossible for consumers to know what they are buying.   

Catherine Hobbs, one of the study’s authors, said: “People might think they’re getting a sustainably-sourced product when they’re actually buying a threatened species. 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.”

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

Among the 10 fin samples gathered from the wholesaler, researchers found fins belonging to scalloped hammerheads, a species considered endangered globally and subject to international trade restrictions.

Dr Andrew Griffiths said: “The discovery of endangered hammerhead sharks highlights how widespread the sale of declining species really is – even reaching Europe and the UK. Scalloped hammerhead can be imported under strict conditions, but the wholesaler had no idea what species the fin belonged to.”

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