Shark Meat, Official Health Recommendations
Despite having a moral reason to not eat apex predators like sharks (discussed in a later blog), there is ample scientific evidence to back up the claim that we should not be consuming the top trophic levels due to high metal levels and slow reproduction rates. Multiple statewide advisories for eating fish across the country recommend not eating shark at all. Check out Florida and California advisories here. The FDA even blankets all sharks as “do not eat” if you are pregnant, might become pregnant, nursing or a young child. We don’t know about you, but if something is categorized as simply as “do not eat” for any type of human, we don't want anything to do with it. Programs like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list sharks as majority “avoid," and only one species as “best choice" (Spiny Dogfish via bottom trawls on the West Coast of the U.S.). A great rule of thumb is to eat low on the food chain.
Not too long ago (2013), a mako shark fished from Huntington Beach, CA was tested and showed more than 100 times the legal seafood limit of PCBs, DDTs and mercury levels. This is an eye opening find because mako shark is a common type of shark that shows up in fish markets around the world. (However, it is now becoming exceedingly rare and is proposed to be added to the CITES endangered species listing.). Toxin levels in Southern California are so high that officials have classified many top predators as “do not eat”. PCBs came to California when manufacturers dumped contaminated water in the sewers. From the 1940s to the 1980s, Montrose Chemical Company was dumping DDT-laced sewer system in Southern California. This isn’t just a misfortune for fish in California, this happens around the globe. Thresher shark is another common shark that shows up in the shark meat industry, and yes, their mercury and metal levels have skyrocketed as well, in certain regions.
According to WildAid’s findings in Sharks In Crisis, “ a 2015 study of dusky, sand- bar and white shark tissue samples taken from Australian waters found that 75 percent of dusky shark and 58 percent of sandbar shark samples exceeded the maximum mercury limits set by the FSANZ: Just two 120-gram servings of these species’ muscle tis- sue could exceed the provisional tolerable weekly dietary intake. The study also found [extremely high] concentrations of arsenic beyond acceptable limits in all muscle, liver and fin fiber samples from the three species. Additional studies have found shark fins with levels of arsenic exceeding by 13 to 32 times China’s national guidelines. In November 2017, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department cautioned the Hong Kong public to avoid a batch of prepackaged shark’s tail skin after a routine test of a sample purchased in a Causeway Bay supermarket found that the product contained a level of mercury eight times the permissible limit - 4.16 parts per million vs the0.5ppm legal limit.”