Saturday, September 26, 2009

Be a Shark Friendly Consumer... Help Protect Sharks When You Buy

Many people assume that because they don’t eat shark fin soup – then they can’t possibly be contributing to the demise of the sharks. And while shark fin soup does account for a considerable amount of shark consumption, there are many other culprits. It isn’t just something that can be blamed on a single culture or country.

Often, I find many people surprised – including myself – to discover what shark is actually used in. And it isn’t always the usual, easy to identify products, say with the word shark in the product name, like shark steaks, shark teeth or shark leather. Certain energy drinks, pet supplements, vitamins, lotions, dog chew toys, and even lipsticks - to name but a few - are all known to contain shark products.

One quite underhanded technique restaurants and stores often employ is masking the use of shark by changing the name. Take for instance, the poor, little Spiny Dogfish Shark. Not a well-known, charismatic shark so it remains in the shadows of its sexy cousins: the tigers, bulls, and hammerheads. But, the Spiny Dogfish Sharks’ population is plummeting worldwide and critically facing extinction – in fact, it is already considered commercially extinct in certain areas. And this relatively unknown shark was one of two (or three if you run with the folks that put the sawfish in this group) being considered last year for addition to the CITES Appendix that currently protects only white, whale and basking sharks from international trade.

Who would eat this shark? Well, if you live in the UK, maybe you or someone you know. How is that possible? Because these sharks have been re-labeled in the UK to a more, well, appealing term: Rock Salmon. Mmmm… Sounds far more tasty to those who eat fish, no?

Indeed, many of the fish & chip shops that so many Brits know and love commonly have Rock Salmon on the menu. And even if it isn’t on the menu, a simple inquiry will lead you to discover it is often available by request or even featured as a special. That’s why many of us in shark conservation have stopped frequenting these places. We would never support a restaurant or store that sold shark – even if the chips are the best thing we have ever tasted.

That is why we were thrilled to find a fish & chips shop in Windsor on our Shark Awareness week visit that was indeed shark friendly. Dale Bowie, the organizer of the event, introduced us to it. (And of course it would have to be – since he was able to ensure Windsor is the first town ever to be shark friendly.) No rock salmon sold here! Good for you, Ronnie Shaw.

For some of us, like Steve Roest, CEO of Sea Shepherd, it was the first batch of chips enjoyed in a long, long while. And for some of us, it was a first – and I must say, with the malt vinegar, I think I was pretty much eating little slices of heaven – that was until I couldn’t stand watching Steve drool as I enjoyed them, having scarfed his own down too quickly. Surprisingly, he turned down the offer for “seconds”, but only because it was actually “fourths” considering he had managed to weasel half of both Kim's and my chips as well.

The moral of this story, besides of course exercising some control when consuming chips with others lest they out you on Facebook to the world, is to always be an aware, informed consumer. Know what is in that “pollack” - processed "white fish" - you are eating in the form of crab sticks, patties or fish cakes because it can possibly be shark. Don’t take or drink any supplements with “Chondroitin“ - derived from shark cartilage - in them. Never use any cosmetic products (including makeup, lotions and deodorants) that contain Squalene which is shark liver oil – in fact just buy the cruelty-free variety all the time. No matter how much you like those shark’s tooth earrings, or the shark leather wallet, don’t buy them. And under no circumstances order the Rock Salmon, let alone eat at a restaurant that serves it. In fact, if you are really serious about protecting sharks, since over ½ of that 100,000,000 sharks caught yearly are caught as by-catch, only eat sustainably caught seafood, or, better yet, do like I do and just refrain from eating anything from the sea. That way, no matter how a fish is re-labeled, you can be sure you are doing your part.

To enjoy Shark Friendly chips when in Windsor, visit: Ronnie Shaw's Great British Fish & Chips on Thames Road right across from the castle. Tell Ronnie we sent you!


Alison Towner said...

Nice one Jules! awesome to see you as pro active in your shark campaigns as ever. I shall return to the uk for a couple of weeks soon and low and behold if i find rock slamon in my local chippy there will be war ha ha! at least give people the correct name so they can have a choice. mmm british chips with loads of vinegar and salt- you've certainly convinced me of my first meal home- who needs fish with that anyway! Ali xx

CafeGive said...

Talk about being an informed consumer Jules! Is your project a non-profit? If so, please check out - we work with non-profits to help fundraise through responsible online shopping. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you.


Douglas said...

The article mentions that some energy drinks use shark products. I'm curious as to which because I'm a pretty big fan of energy drinks. Where can I find an accurate list?

Anonymous said...

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