This article was edited for content and formatting August 2012
Common Names for Shark Meat
You might be eating shark and not know it. There are several important reasons that you might not want to eat shark including high mercury levels, their precarious conservation position, and the sometimes inhumane way that sharks are fished and finned. Some common names for shark in English are:
- Lemon Fish
- Cape Steak
- Rock Salmon
- Smoked Rock Salmon
- Smoked Dogfish
- Sea Ham
- Tofu Shark
- Ocean Fillet
- Surimi (Imitation Crab Meat) (Pollock, another common fish used in Imitation Crab Meat is ~not~ shark).
To see a full list, including Spanish, Greek, French, Italian and German names, please see the excellent page at VisionDive.
Where does all the shark meat come from?
There are some places where the outright 'finning' of a shark where the fins are removed and the carcass is discarded (because it is much less valuable that the fins) is supposedly not allowed. This is where you get the horrific images of a shark unable to swim, sinking to the bottom of the ocean to die, sometimes days later.
And, is it really a good idea to be eating shark meat with mercury?
The result of this requirement to land the whole fish means that there is shark meat, a meat that several government agencies suggest be eaten with extreme caution because of high mercury levels, that needs to be used somewhere. Both the Food Standards Agency in the UK and the US FDA have issued these warnings, especially for pregnant women.
So, we are left with a meat that results from practices that are leading us towards the extinction of an ecologically important species that has been on earth for over 400 million years. For those keeping score at home, that means it is the most successful species to ever inhabit the planet, outlasting the dinosaurs and surviving, largely unchanged even, 5 major extinction episodes with Armageddon-like comets, volcanos, meteors, and whatever else was thrown at them. (Does this put into perspective for you that shark fin soup and Chinese weddings could be their downfall?)
Even if this path towards extinction does not bother you, under the best of circumstances you should not eat shark more than about once a week (and never if you are potentially pregnant) because of the mercury.
Are you eating shark without knowing it?
So now you say, "Ahhh, but I would never order shark so I have a clean conscience and a clean bill of health." Not so fast. Do you like sushi? Have you had a simple California Roll? You might have been eating shark in the form of the Imitation Crab Meat. Many sellers of shark meat attempt to hide the fact that they are using shark by using the names mentioned above.
Please don't eat shark
Please be aware of what these companies are feeding you and keep in mind the ridiculous, wasteful, and cruel soup that is the reason that much of the meat is available in the first place before you make your next visit to your local fish restaurant. And, please tell them why you are not spending money there!