Fish market
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One in ten fillets of shark meat available in the Australian markets is that of a threatened species, mislabeled and sold as flake, a recent study has found.

DNA analysis by scientists at Macquarie University has uncovered that nine of the 91 fillets available in the market were scalloped hammerhead, greeneye spurdog or school shark -- all considered threatened species in Australia, reported The Guardian.

The study, published in journal Marine and Freshwater Research, also questioned the benefit of the Australian Fish Names Standard, after 40 of the 59 fillets labelled as "flake" turned out to be a different species, while it should have been gummy shark or rig.

"It's shocking and disappointing. Something needs to be done. I hope this puts on some pressure to make the labelling standards mandatory. Most people want to know what they're eating," Prof Adam Stow, head of the conservation genetics laboratory at the university and a co-author of the study, said.

According to the researchers, only two species identified by the retailers matched the descriptions after a genetic study. Researchers stated that most retailers they spoke to could not identify the species of shark or knew if they were caught locally.

"Having unreliable labels takes choice away from consumers. If you want to make a sustainable choice, you can't, because you cannot trust the labels. As shark species around the world start to plummet, we need to be more careful about what we purchase," Teagan Parker Kielniacz, who led the research, said.

Only NSW has the jurisdiction to keep greeneye spurdog, a deepwater species unique to Australia, when caught. Fishing records from NSW have proved only 69 kg of the endangered species was caught in 2019, compared to about 2,100 tonnes of shark caught and sold annually in south-east Australia. Hence, the chances of finding the endangered species in Victoria was remote. It could mean that "greeneye spurdog is being caught in NSW and shipped to Victoria or, even worse, illegal fishing is happening in Australia," pointed out Leonardo Guida, a shark scientist at the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Conservations groups, AMCS and Humane Society International, had proposed greeneye spurdog to be protected under Australia's environmental law.

Voicing concern on the issue, a spokesperson for the fisheries minister, Murray Watt, said it was "always concerning when Australian consumers think they're buying flake but instead are unwittingly eating an endangered species."

Guidelines on labelling seafood to help retailers is expected to come into force in 2025.