Threatened shark species turning up in US restaurants

August 9, 2012
Photo illustration of captured hammerhead sharks. Threatened shark species are being used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, in several US cities, according to an unprecedented study based on DNA testing.

Threatened shark species are being used to make shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, in several US cities, according to an unprecedented study based on DNA testing.

Thirty-three different species of turned up in samples collected in 14 cities and analyzed at Stony Brook University's Institute for Ocean Conservation Science in New York.

"US consumers of soup cannot be certain of what's in their soup," said Demian Chapman, who co-led the DNA testing, in a statement Wednesday. "They could be eating a species that is in serious trouble."

sharks, listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was among the species found on the menus of US restaurants where shark fin soup can sell for as much as $100 per bowl.

Graphic on the endangered shark populations worldwide and the trade in shark fins. Up to 73 million sharks are killed around the world every year to supply an Asian-driven demand for shark fin soup, the Singapore branch of the WWF conservation organization says.

Others included smooth hammerheads, school sharks and spiny dogfish, all listed as vulnerable to extinction, as well as a variety of near-threatened species such as bull and copper sharks.

"This is further proof that shark fin soup here in the United States, not just in Asia, is contributing to the global decline in sharks," said Liz Karan, of the Pew , a foundation that supported the study.

"Sharks must be protected from overfishing," said Karan, manager of Pew's global shark conservation program, "and any international trade in these vulnerable and endangered must be tightly regulated."

The study marks the first time that DNA testing has been used to ascertain the different kinds of sharks used to make shark fin soup in the United States on a large nationwide scale.

Samples were collected in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston; Chicago; Denver, Colorado; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Houston; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; New York; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco; Seattle and Washington.

The study, to which the Field Museum in Chicago contributed its DNA expertise, is to figure prominently in a television program on sharks on the Discovery science channel next week.

Up to 73 million sharks are killed around the world every year to supply an Asian-driven demand for , the Singapore branch of the WWF conservation organization says.

Since sharks are slow-growing and mature at a late age, they are particularly vulnerable to the danger of extinction, with potentially serious knock-on effects for lower rungs of the oceanic food chain.

Explore further: As sharks dwindle, new laws enacted

Related Stories

As sharks dwindle, new laws enacted

May 28, 2007

Shark fisheries in Mexico and throughout the world are dealing with proposed rules to curb shark hunting in the interest of preserving these predators.

Taiwan uses DNA mapping to save endangered sharks

May 23, 2012

Taiwan has begun testing DNA from shark fins sold in local markets in a bid to protect endangered species such as great whites and whale sharks, an official from the Fisheries Agency said Wednesday.

Sharks threatened by Asian consumers, says group

March 16, 2010

(AP) -- Surging demand for shark fin soup among Asia's booming middle classes is driving many species of these big fish to the brink of extinction, a marine conservation group said Tuesday.

New York eyes shark fin trade ban

February 21, 2012

A group of New York legislators on Tuesday unveiled a draft law banning trade in shark fins, saying the practice, which serves the market for Chinese shark fin soup, was decimating the ocean predators.

Malaysia Borneo state wants ban on shark fishing

August 29, 2011

A Malaysian state on Borneo island, known for its world-class dive sites, is seeking to ban shark fishing to protect the species, which draws thousands of tourists each year, a minister said Monday.

Recommended for you

Scientists create 'Evolutionwatch' for plants

February 21, 2018

Using a hitchhiking weed, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology reveal for the first time the mutation rate of a plant growing in the wild.

New tool tells bioengineers when to build microbial teams

February 21, 2018

Researchers at Duke University have created a framework for helping bioengineers determine when to use multiple lines of cells to manufacture a product. The work could help a variety of industries that use bacteria to produce ...

Triplefin fish found to have controlled iris radiance

February 21, 2018

A team of researchers with the University of Tübingen in Germany has found an example of a fish that is able to control light reflected from organs next to its pupils—a form of photolocation. In their paper published in ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (6) Aug 09, 2012
Time that humans were good for more than shark food and start telling these shark protectors to go jump in the see their brothers with the high dorsal fin! Go dine on shark fin soup every day to send a real message. Vote with your DinersClub card for swimmer safety.
4.6 / 5 (5) Aug 09, 2012
It makes a bad precedent for Japanese who are fishing whales for "scientific research". It gets even more sarcastic, if we realize, only fins are used from these sharks. The sharks are known with their longevity, immunity and resistance against cancer. Maybe we are just destroying the genome, which evolved for millions of years and which could help us to longer life and fight against cancer and superbugs. But the free-market society cannot account to the hidden cost of commodities, until they're not expressed in money - right now.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 09, 2012
immunity and resistance against cancer.

Which is just an urban legend.
Shark skeletons are cartilage based. Cartilage does not grow cancerous (even in humans) because cartilage does not allow blood vessels to grow. But sharks do get other forms of tumors.

So unless we exchange our bony skeleton for a cartilage based one (which would be all sorts of funny because we'd be flopping around onthe floor in a bloblike heap) there's no miracle cure for (bone) cancer in it for us from sharks.
3 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2012
Cartilage does not grow cancerous (even in humans)

OK...that sounds mislading. there are cancers in humans that go into cartilage tissue - but these probably originate elsewhere (e.g. in the bone next to the cartilage and then grow into the cartilage). There's also some genetic factors involved that can cause a cancer of the cartilage.
5 / 5 (2) Aug 09, 2012
Not all cancers are related to bones or cartilage, antialias...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.