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  • Writer's pictureNhanta

School Shark Critically Endangered - Sold As Fish Meat in Australia

Global overfishing is now considered one of the greatest threats to marine health and the survival of its inhabitants. It endangers whole ocean ecosystems. Many fish stocks are completely exhausted and fish species are threatened with extinction. Stricter fishing quotas and other measures have been proposed to stop overfishing for some years with slow progress. Without sustainable management, our fisheries face collapse and we face a food crisis. Following is an example prompting environmentalists in Australia to call for stronger protection of a particular species amongst many.

The school shark is a houndshark of the family Triakidae, and the only member of the genus Galeorhinus. Common names also include tope shark, snapper shark, and soupfin shark. It is found worldwide in temperate seas at depths down to about 800 m. It can grow to nearly 2 metre long. Wikipedia

In July 2020 the school shark was worldwide designated critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Critics have slammed Australia’s environmental laws allowing the school shark–sold as flake–to be commercially traded despite being listed as ‘conservation dependent’

School shark was the leading ‘flake (the generic name for shark meat) and chips’ eat-out or take-home meal for Australians in the 1970s but the nation's love affair with the deep fried fish impacted school shark numbers. It prompted fisheries regulators to cut quotas dramatically. But unfortunately species classed as ‘conservation dependent’ under national laws can therefore still be commercially traded despite suffering 90% drop in numbers.

Instead the sustainable ‘gummy shark’ is supposed to be used for flake - except when it’s not! (gummy shark, also known as the Australian smooth hound, flake, Sweet William or smooth dog-shark, is a shark in the family Triakidae Wikipedia) According to the Australian Fish Names Standard AS 5300-2019, only two species should be sold as flake; the ‘gummy shark’ and a related species from New Zealand ‘rig’. So already the waters are muddied... The standard is voluntary and country of origin labelling regulations only apply to raw and frozen products, not cooked meals in cafes, restaurants and fish and chip shops, meaning that the ‘flake’ might not be gummy shark or from a local fishery. It might even be a school shark.

Please think again when ordering your fish and chips meal next time - if the flake was to be a school shark, how would you feel about eating an endangered species? Eating animals poses a moral problem to an increasing number of people in general worldwide. (Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior." The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology. Wikipedia)

However, there is an alternative. Sustainable fishing guarantees there will be populations of ocean wildlife for us and future generations. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation on a mission to end overfishing and restore fish stocks for future generations. Please choose the “Blue Fish Tick” next time you shop for seafood.

In Australia and New Zealand, you’ll find MSC certified sustainable seafood with the blue fish tick on over 500 products as well as some restaurant menus.

In Australia and New Zealand, you’ll find MSC certified sustainable seafood with the blue fish tick on over 500 products as well as some restaurant menus.

Reef shark beneath a school of jack fish - Wikimedia Commons

I quote part of an article in The Guardian (13 July 2020) that inspired me to write this blog:

> A shark routinely sold in Australian fish shops has been listed as critically endangered by an international conservation body, prompting environmentalists to call for stronger protection of the species.

It comes as the government is due to release an interim report into Australia’s national environmental laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The school shark, whose meat is often sold as “flake” – the generic name for shark meat – was designated critically endangered last week by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In Australia, the species is listed in a special category known as “conservation dependent”, which allows otherwise endangered species to continue to be commercially traded.

“It’s a quirk in our national laws that prioritises commercial exploitation and economic drivers over environmental ones,” said Leonardo Guida, a shark scientist and spokesman for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“We stopped harvesting whales for that very reason. Why is it different for a shark? Why is it different for a fish?

“There is no reason why any animal that has had a 90% decline in modern times should still continue to be harvested.

We suspect the value of the school shark as a byproduct is the real reason for the government’s stance and not whether it’s migratory or not,” he said. “Endangered species should be protected from commercial exploitation regardless of value.” >

Statements of Australian politicians such as “the Australian Government had made significant investments in implementing key actions identified in the recovery plans for listed sharks and rays” does not really say much about actions regarding conservation and protection of these particular species.

We - collectively - have to pay more attention to the silent extinction crisis that is happening in our oceans; it is so much harder to document the decline of species in our waters and for people to actually witness it than it is on land. It is therefore most important to NOT ignore the facts and spread the word. Please consider sharing this blog - THANK YOU !

<The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events--that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies--and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends. - Alan Watts>



Marine Stewardship Council (viewed 17.07.2020)

National Geographic (viewed 17.07.2020)

The Guardian - Australian Edition, 13 July 2020 (viewed 14.07.2020)


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