Sharks have an important place in the marine ecosystem. Comprising a variety of species, they roam our oceans and play a vital ecological role that many are unaware of.
Yet since 1970, ocean populations of sharks and rays have declined by 71%. There are also 3/4 of all shark species that are now considered globally endangered. In this context, a recent study has just highlighted a rather unusual fact about the disappearance of sharks. Researchers have indeed discovered that some pet food producers put shark meat in their product.
Sharks are reportedly being used as an ingredient in pet food products. An earlier study had also detected shark DNA in cosmetic products.
A hidden ingredient in various products
According to the article published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, the researchers made an alarming finding after using a DNA study technique. Of the 150 pet food products from Singapore examined, almost a third contained shark meat. The latter even included meat from endangered species such as the silky shark and the whitetip reef shark. According to Ben Wainwright and Ian French, authors of the study, none of the products mentioned shark as an ingredient. Producers only used general terms such as “fish”, “sea fish”, “white bait”, or even “white fish”.
A 2019 US study had already shown that 2/3 of the pet food products examined contained DNA from the endangered shortfin mako shark. Moreover, this same study revealed that one in eight cosmetic products contained shark DNA. Squalene, or shark liver oil, is actually frequently used in moisturizers despite the availability of a similar herbal product.
A problem that deserves to be exposed
Overfishing, fueled by the growing shark fin trade, is responsible for around 100 million shark deaths a year. As a result, many species are now virtually extinct. Researchers still don’t know if the high incidence of shark meat in animal feed is an attempt to avoid waste in the fin trade. However, they doubt that this is the case. Indeed, the companies that market them deliberately omit to mention the presence of sharks on their labels, thus misleading consumers.
The researchers indicate that better, more honest labeling would allow consumers to make more informed choices. Pet owners are often nature lovers and they would probably be outraged to know that they are unknowingly contributing to the extermination of sharks.