Pet Owners Unknowingly Feed Their Pets Endangered Shark Meat | Science | News

The ingredient lists of many pet food products around the world contain vague terms like fish, saltwater fish, and whitebait, without actually specifying the meat used. Back in 2019, researchers tested 87 pet food products for sale in the United States and found that 63% contained traces of shark DNA, primarily the endangered shortfin mako shark. However, it was unclear whether shark meat was also surreptitiously included in pet food sold elsewhere.

In the latest study, marine ecologist Ben Wainwright and environmental researcher Ian French from the National University of Singapore analyzed the content of 45 locally available pet food products from 16 different brands.

The researchers said: “Given the results of [the] previous study done in the United States, we wanted to see if endangered sharks are also sold in Asian pet foods.

“None of the products purchased listed shark as an ingredient, only using generic catch-all terms such as ‘fish’, ‘ocean fish’, ‘whitebait’ or ‘whitefish’ to describe their contents.”

Of the 144 samples taken from the 45 products, genetic analysis revealed that almost a third – 31% – contained traces of shark DNA.

The most frequently identified shark species in pet food were blue shark (Prionace glauca), silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis), and whitetip shark (Triaenodon obesus).

These last two species are both listed as “Vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Additionally, the silky shark is listed in the appendix of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning that its trade is supposed to be controlled to prevent overfishing that could threaten the survival of the species.

The discovery of shark meat in such unexpected places, researchers say, shows how sharks are increasingly under severe overfishing pressure.

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As apex predators, the team explained, sharks play a vital role in the functioning of healthy marine ecosystems, helping to keep populations of their prey and the rest of the food chain in check.

The loss of sharks, therefore, has already led to a decrease in the abundance of coral reefs and seagrasses.

Part of the problem is the growing trade in shark fins and meat – which has led to the death of an estimated 100 million sharks each year, with little effective monitoring and management of this fishery to prevent overfishing.

The researchers said: “Shark populations are overexploited worldwide, with declines of over 70% documented over the past 50 years.

“This is indicative of the current disregard in which we hold our oceans.”

Along with food, sharks also find their way onto our shelves in the form of some personal care and beauty products which, like their shark-based pet food counterparts, typically do not specify where their sharks come from. ingredients.

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Prof Wainwright and Mr French added: “The majority of pet owners are likely to be nature lovers, and we think most would be alarmed to discover that they might unknowingly be contributing to overfishing populations of sharks.”

Based on their findings, the duo are calling for more transparency in published ingredient lists of pet food products, avoiding catch-all terms in favor of specific details that allow consumers to make more informed decisions. enlightened.

At the same time, the team would like to see the implementation of global standards for pet food ingredients as well as increased accountability, to help reduce unsustainable fishing practices that put pets at greater risk. already threatened shark populations.

The full results of the study have been published in the journal Marine Science Frontiers.