Can you eat a Shark? (5 Reasons Against it)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat a Shark? We will discuss some reasons which point against eating shark including negative health impact caused by heavy metal poisoning.

Can you eat a Shark?

Yes, you can eat a shark. In the US, shark meat is legal. However, the risk associated with eating shark is suffering from mercury poisoning. Some species of shark are endangered, therefore, need to be protected from hunting. Rest assured, the process of defining a shark is burdensome.

Besides the US, sharks are eaten in Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Australia, Iceland, the U.K., Germany, France to name a few. Around the world, sharks are cooked using different recipes and techniques.

In 2011, the Shark Conservation Act was passed to protect sharks from finning. The finning is a cruel act where sharks are captured, their fins are cut off. The fins are used as food or as part of food. The problem with this practice is the brutality levied upon the sharks, where they are helplessly put back in water. The shark without their fins either sink to bottom of the ocean or succumb to predators. It adds to pollution and contributes to food wastage. There are 11 states in the US, that have banned the finning and selling shark fins. 

The texture of shark fins is celebrated in Chinese culture where it is enjoyed on special occasion as a sign of luxury. Shark fins are prepared in various forms from dried, canned, frozen and cold where the popularity was at its highest in the 2000s, whereas the trend is currently on the decline.

Shark is quick to spoil, therefore needs to be preserved or cooked instantly. However, to get rid of its ammonia and urea odor, you need to marinate for hours before it can be cooked. Shark is cut into steaks and fillets and cooked similar to other large fish.

Can eating shark meat harm a person’s health?

Heavy metal poisoning is a serious issue related to seafood consumption. While it is found in almost every sea creature, higher up the food chain the problem becomes more severe. 

As Marine pollution increases, owing to the dumping of hazardous, toxic waste, it disrupts the entire food chain. Heavy metals such as lead and Mercury, absorb into the marine organisms including the algae, fungi and other plants. As small fish eat these creatures, the chain of metal accumulation begin. As the fish are eaten by other fish, higher up the food chain, the concentration increases.

The process is called bio magnification, where the toxins reach their peak at the top of the food chain. Their huge appetite coupled with their long life, becomes a menace to human health if consumed. Hence, we find a larger amount of Mercury, Arsenic and lead in the shark compared with other smaller sea creatures.

Let us discuss some common heavy metals and their effect on human health:

  1. Methyl Mercury 

Mercury on its is harmful, however, it combines with other organic compounds which makes it even more deadly. The creature known to contain the highest amount of methyl-mercury is the shark.

Methyl Mercury causes some serious impacts on health including but not limited to motor control, corrosion of skin and mucous membranes, blindness, deafness, impotence, sterility. It is also linked with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

  1. Ciguatera

It is the most prevalent form of seafood poisoning, which originates from a microorganism that attaches to algae or to dead or damaged corals. This form of toxic food poisoning can be serious and requires medical attention.

  1. DDT

Sharks are a victim of poisoning caused by this synthetic and toxic pesticide. The DDT, when transferred to a person’s bloodstream causes serious health impacts. The neurological and cognitive damage can be lasting with symptoms like dizziness, convulsions, and irritability.

Pregnant women exposed to this chemical are at a higher risk of birthing premature babies.

  1. PCB

PCB is also a carcinogenic pesticide, which is highly toxic and non-degradable. PCB is found in shark meat and oil and can cause liver disease and a poor immune system. PCB in children impairs their development while pregnant women have a higher risk of problems such as birth defects. PCB also interferes with the estrogen levels in the body.

  1. BMAA

BMAA is also a neurotoxin that causes neurogenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. BMAA is found as a huge part of the shark’s body including the flesh, cartilage, and other organs. 

  1. Urea

It is a natural substance produced as a waste product by the kidneys. Being carnivores, the sharks produce a high amount of urea, which if consumed can be detrimental to a person’s health.

In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat a Shark? We discussed some reasons which discourage eating shark including negative health impact caused by heavy metal poisoning.


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.