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Closed petition Stop shark being sold under misleading names in the UK

Defra's Commercial Designations of Fish allows 46 shark species to be sold under 6 generic names in UK chippies and fishmongers (e.g. Rock Salmon). These include Critically Endangered sharks. We ask that shark must instead be sold under common names to enable consumers to make ethical choices.

More details

Sharks are critical to oceans.

46 (often rare) sharks can be sold as Rock Salmon, Rock Eel, Dogfish, Flake, Huss or Rigg. 94 DNA samples showed an 86% chance of eating Spiny Dogfish in a chippy when ordering fish listed under these names.

The IUCN Red List assessment found that Spiny Dogfish stock in the NE Atlantic was Critically Endangered, and Vulnerable to Extinction globally.

Tope - Critically Endangered globally - is sold under these names too. For comparison, orangutans and gorillas are also Critically Endangered.

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Government responded

This response was given on 23 March 2023

The Government is proud to champion the conservation and sustainable management of sharks and we will consider the evidence to support a review on the commercial designations of endangered sharks.

Read the response in full

The UK Government recognises the critical role that sharks play in the marine ecosystem and is proud to champion the conservation and sustainable management of sharks wherever they are fished.

The UK has long been pressing for stronger international action to protect sharks against unsustainable fishing practices. The UK was pleased to support the listing of almost 100 shark and ray species (a significant portion of which were co-sponsored by the UK) on Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) following a successful Conference of the Parties in Panama last year. This landmark agreement has placed nearly all shark species traded internationally for their fins under CITES. The UK remains committed to the implementation of these listings.

Domestically, the UK is currently progressing the Shark Fins Bill through Parliament. The Shark Fins Bill proposes a ban on the import and export of shark fins which are not ‘naturally attached’ to the shark carcass. The proposed ban includes shark fins, parts of shark fins and all products containing shark fins, including tinned shark fin soup. This will help ensure that the UK is not importing or exporting shark fins which have been obtained through shark finning practices. If successful, this ban will represent another important step in the UK’s journey to delivering better shark conservation globally.

It is important to recognise that sharks not only fulfil a crucial biological role in the marine ecosystem but also provide important social and economic benefits for society, as sources of protein and revenue. We do not oppose the capture of sharks in commercial fisheries, providing those fisheries are sustainable and trade is appropriately managed. We always promote the full utilisation of any catches. Restaurants are therefore allowed to serve certain shark meat providing it is acquired in line with the relevant rules and regulations. It is also acceptable under the Commercial Designations of Fish to call specific species of small sharks by the names dogfish, flake, huss, rig, rock eel or rock salmon.

Since our departure from the European Union, responsibility for the commercial designations of fish is with Defra and as such, we are able to review and amend this list providing there is a sound basis for doing so. Defra leads a working group in which we discuss any potential changes to the list of commercial designations with all the Devolved Administrations, the Food Standards Agency, academia and seafood industry representatives.

Defra will explore the available evidence to support a review of the commercial designations of relevant shark species. We would encourage any evidence you wish to be considered is sent, along with contact details to ukassurance@defra.gov.uk.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs