Flake and by-catch
It is the demand for shark fin, that has created the supply for shark meat here in Australia.
The vast majority of shark meat sold supermarkets and ‘local’fish and chip shopsis labelled as ‘flake’. TheAustralian Fish Names Committee (AFNC) lists gummy and rig shark as the only two species that can be sold under this name. However, the regulations are not mandatory and shark meat from other species is sold as flake. Genetic tests on shark meat have found endangered and vulnerable species sold as flake. In particular, school shark a species currently listed as ‘over-fished’ is very susceptible to bycatch in gummy shark fisheries. A 2015 investigation by Greenpeace, found that only 1 in 9 stores in Melbourne that advertised the meat as gummy shark, were actually that species. The meat labelled as ‘flake’, was commonly found to be school shark.
Although there was enough evidence to deem school shark as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC Act), it was decided to list their species as ‘conservation dependant.’ The ‘conservation dependant’ status is a mechanism that allows the Australian Government to sidestep protection measures. This is done by allowing them to continue to be fished in other fisheries. The NSW Trap and Line Fishery, continues to fish Gummy shark, even though their species are still classified as ‘over-fished.’
The truth in labelling laws in Australia are manifestly inadequate. Any shark caught as bycatch in these fisheries may be sold as flake, or ‘fish of the day.’ In addition, shark meat is imported from other countries that have little or no regulation when it comes to shark fisheries. There is also no legal requirement to specify the country of origin of the meat (when not sold frozen). Consumers have no idea what they are eating; the level of toxins they are ingesting or whether or not they may be consuming an endangered species.
Photo: Madison Stewart