Fancy fish and chips as a takeaway treat? Well, you might be getting more than you bargain for, as a study reveals chippies around the UK have reportedly been serving up endangered species of sharks.
The spiny dogfish and starry smooth-hound fishes are being served up, the investigation found, passed off as dishes like rock salmon.
The findings, published in the Mirror, were based on scientists DNA testing 15 fish samples from seaside towns. Of these, 10 examples of dogfish and smooth-hound, which are endangered, were found in shops where owners thought they were selling something else entirely.
The findings echo research by the University of Exeter from January 2019, which revealed most chip shop fish sold as flake or rock were “spiny dogfish, smooth-hounds, nurse-hounds and blue sharks”.
Not only is this misleading consumers, but it’s bad for sustainability efforts as spiny dogfish numbers have declined significantly in recent years. They are classified as “critically endangered” in the northeast Atlantic.
In the EU, the spiny dogfish shark is only allowed to be sold if they were caught by accidentally getting trapped in fishing nets looking for other fish, according to Sky News. Starry smooth-hound is ranked as being of “least concern”.
How can we ensure the fish we eat is sustainable?
Unfortunately for consumers, when you’re relying on restaurants to label products accurately, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re buying –especially if the sellers themselves are being mis-sold.
“People might think they’re getting a sustainable product when they’re actually buying a threatened species,” Catherine Hobbs, from the University of Exeter, previously said.
The Marine Conservation Society (MSC) says 90% of the fish stocks we eat are under threat thanks to climate change and overfishing. So if we’re buying products for ourselves from supermarkets or fishmongers, how can we make sure we’re making the best informed decisions?
In its Good Fish Guide, the MSC says we should largely avoid grouper, halibut, marlin, prawns, Atlantic salmon, seabass, skate, rock salmon, sturgeon, swordfish, tuna, whelk and whitebait.
We should try to eat more hake, bream and certain lobster species, the MSC advises, because they are thriving at the moment (subject to change).
And we should also try to eat more ‘bycatch’ – unwanted fish caught during commercial fishing – because otherwise it might go to waste. It is also often lower in mercury levels than other fish.
“For consumers, preparing a food that would otherwise go to waste is the ultimate in sustainable purchasing,” said Dwayne Canfield, fisheries and coastal communities program manager at Ecotrust told HuffPost. “If you can get it, it’s usually more cost-effective. Under appreciated fish will often be cheaper.”
Further examples of under-loved seafood include: atlantic butterfish, scup, sea robin, some types of crab (jonah, sand, peekytoe, rock, ling), ground fish, squid, anchovies, black cod, cockles and clams.