Endangered shark meat being sold as fish and chips in South Australia

Endangered shark meat is being sold as flake fillets in some fish and chip shops in South Australia, new research has revealed.

A team of reseachers from the University of Adelaide analysed the DNA of fillets from more than 100 retailers across Adelaide and regional areas of South Australia to determine what type of fish were being sold as flake – an umbrella term used to describe shark meat fillets.

“Only 27 per cent of all samples were identified as gummy shark, a species that has a sustainable population, and is one of only two species that is recommended to be labelled as flake in Australia,” said first author Ashleigh Sharrad.

Research has found that endangered shark meat is being sold in some fish and chip outlets in South Australia. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The study, which was published in the journal Food Control, found four threatened species, such as the short-fin mako shark and smooth hammerhead shark, were also being sold as flake at some takeaway outlets.

A total of nine different types of species were identified in the study, including some which are not found in Australian waters.

“Food fraud in the seafood industry is a growing concern and mislabelling may occur. It can have potential implications on human health, the economy, and species conservation,” said Professor Bronwyn Gillanders, a researcher at the university.

The short-fin mako shark was one of the endangered species identified. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Of all the flake samples analysed, only one in 10 retailers could correctly identify the type of fish being sold while 20 per cent of the fillets were mislabelled and the remainder had ambiguous labelling.

“It is important to note that while a broad variety of species are being sold as flake, smaller retailers can’t be accused of mislabelling because they are most likely unaware when they purchase bulk, processed or frozen fish fillets,” Sharrad said.

The Australian Fish Names Standard recommends the term flake only be used to describe gummy shark and New Zealand rig, but this guideline is not mandatory.

“Our results highlight the need for clearer national guidelines or labelling laws for shark fillets,” Sharrad said.

“This is the key to building trust across the supply chain, boosting demand for local, sustainable catch and importantly, empowering consumers and retailers to make informed choices.”

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