Shark Week is awesome, isn't it? Yeah, it totally is (I assume, I've never seen it). You know what's less awesome? The fact that because of Shark Week, we are eating at least one species near to endangerment.
Turns out that in the wake of the Discovery Channel's annual feature, restaurants are trying to sell as much shark meat as possible, and people are eating it like crazy. Because, sure, it's not like sharkflesh tastes like an oily, fishy tire or anything.
The most commonly-eaten shark here is the Shortfin Mako — a species with a conservation status listed as Vulnerable that's also famous for being the fastest species of shark (fun fact: I was obsessed with sharks at age 9 and did not need to look this up. Don't even get me started on the Goblin Shark). Makos, which are slow-growing to begin with, are in decline in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Conservationists are, unsurprisingly, really unhappy about this new trend:
"It's opportunistic," says Sean Van Sommeran, founder of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz. "[Restaurants] are using the celebrity of sharkism to sell more tacos than they normally would."
Angelo Villagomez, with the Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Shark Conservation campaign, notes that the Atlantic shortfin mako's "vulnerable" IUCN rating is the same as that of the polar bear. "But you wouldn't want to eat polar bear tacos," he says.
Two things here: 1) I would absolutely eat one of the bears from those Coke commercials because I'm a terrible human being, and 2) holy shit that second guy used the word "sharkism" and that's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. I want to go get a PhD in Sharkism and have business cards that refer to me as a licensed professional sharkist. 9-year-old me is absolutely losing his shit at this idea. Anyway, eating threatened species is bad and maybe we shouldn't do that.
Granted, shark meat isn't the main problem here: sharks are more commonly killed for their fins, used in shark fin soup (which I assume looks exactly like the above image). While you can get the soup in the US, it's significantly more popular in China. Conservationists have also been campaigning to curb Chinese demand, but while there have been some promising indicators on that front, in the meantime, the meat isn't the main issue.
So...until that gets solved, more shark tacos, I guess? No? OK, no.
Image via Snowshill/Shutterstock.