Shark meat is consumed in many parts of the world and has been a part of traditional diets for centuries. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether eating shark is safe and sustainable.
This article provides a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of eating shark meat.
Shark Species Commonly Eaten
There are over 500 species of sharks, but only a handful are suitable for human consumption. Some of the most commonly eaten shark species include:
- Mako Shark
- Thresher Shark
- Blacktip Shark
- Nurse Shark
- Spiny Dogfish
These sharks are abundant, have firm white meat, and are considered to have a higher quality taste compared to other shark species.
Shark meat is lean and high in protein. A 3 ounce serving contains:
Shark meat provides vitamins and minerals like B-vitamins, selenium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. However, its nutritional value can vary between species.
Shark meat has a mild flavor. The texture is moist and firm, similar to swordfish or chicken breast. It tends to soak up marinades well.
Common flavor descriptions include:
- Mildly fishy
- Hint of ammonia
Frying, baking, and grilling are popular cooking methods to bring out the best flavor.
Some cultures prize shark meat for its purported health benefits. These include:
- Boosting immune health
- Increasing libido
- Improving skin, hair, nails
- Anti-aging properties
However, these benefits have not been scientifically proven and may depend on the species eaten.
The biggest health concern with eating shark meat is high mercury levels. As apex predators, sharks bioaccumulate heavy metals like mercury in their tissues.
The FDA recommends:
- Children under 12 should not eat shark
- Women who are pregnant/nursing should avoid it
- Anyone should limit intake to once per week
Older, larger shark species tend to have the highest mercury levels and should be avoided.
Many shark species are overfished and threatened by extinction. Organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommend avoiding eating sharks due to sustainability issues.
However, some argue that consuming abundant species like mako shark may be an option if properly regulated. Supporting sustainable fisheries is important.
How to Buy Shark Meat
Shark meat availability varies regionally, but some options for purchasing include:
- Local fish markets
- Asian supermarkets
- Specialty seafood suppliers
- Direct from fishermen
You may need to special order or pre-order shark meat at mainstream grocers. Prices range from $5-$15 per pound.
Is Eating Shark Legal?
In the United States, it is legal to fish for and consume most shark species. However, some regulations exist:
- Commercial fishing of great white, basking, and whale sharks is prohibited
- Strict recreational catch limits on sharks
- Ban on shark finning (cutting fins off and discarding body)
Check state and federal laws before catching or consuming your own shark.
How to Prepare Shark Meat
Proper preparation is key to making shark meat more palatable:
- Bleed immediately after catch
- Remove urine-filled urea by soaking in milk or saltwater brine
- Marinate in vinegar, lemon, or wine to cut “ammonia” smell
- Discard marinade after to avoid overwhelming flavor
Cooking options include:
Shark meat should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 145°F.
Should You Eat Shark?
In the end, the decision of whether to eat shark is a personal one. Shark meat offers health benefits, but also some risks depending on the species and your consumption habits. Sourcing shark sustainably is an important consideration as well.
While not for everyone, shark can be an interesting alternative protein. If prepared properly, it provides a unique flavor and texture in seafood dishes. Just be sure to make informed decisions about the type of shark meat you eat.