LETTERS I BOOKS I POLICY FORUM I EDUCATIONFORUM I PERSPECTIVES
edited by Jennifer Sills
Shark Mislabeling Threatens Biodiversity
1Universidade Federal do Paraná, 19020, Brazil. 2
Labo-ratório de Ecologia e Conservação, DEA, Universidade Federal do Paraná, 19020, Brazil.
AS COMMERCIAL FISHERIES STRUGGLE TO APPLY REGULATORY AND LEGAL MECHANISMS THAT
depend on reliable species-specific data (1), the shark industry faces an even greater obstacle to transparency: Sellers change product names to overcome consumer resistance. For
instance, South Africa sells shark meat (shortfin mako shark) mislabeled as “ocean fillets”
or “skomoro” and in doing so threatens a vulnerable species (2). Conversely, the European
Union (3) requires listing the species name on shark products to avoid fraud and to help conserve certain species (4).
The situation is even worse in many
developing countries [e.g., Mozambique, Costa Rica, India, Sri Lanka, and
Borneo (5)], where shark meat is commonly sold without proper identification. In Brazilian supermarkets, elasmobranchs (members of a fish subclass distinguished by the lack of swim bladders)
are sold as “cação,” a popular name for
any small shark species or pup. Consumers do not understand that cação
refers to any elasmobranch, regardless
of its size or species. This intentional
mislabeling compromises efforts to lessen shark consumption or to promote consumption of
HUGO BORNATOWSKI,1 RAUL RENNÓ BRAGA,1
JEAN RICARDO SIMÕES VITULE2
For sale. Shark meat in a Brazilian market.
Only a few isolated initiatives have been attempted to force supermarkets to better inform
customers of which shark species they are consuming. For example, on 1 July 2011, Instituto
Justiça Ambiental (the Environmental Justice Institute) filed a public civil action against the
Walmart and Carrefour supermarket chains requesting that they sell shark meat with appropriate scientific species identification (6). This is a critical step for shark conservation everywhere, and especially in Brazil, where 18 shark species are threatened, overexploited, or under
threat of overexploitation (7).
Meanwhile, another five oceanic shark species and manta rays were recently added to the
list of animals whose trade requires permits as described by the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). With CITES oversight, the
international trade of these species can only take place if the meat is shown to be obtained
legally and sustainably (8).
CREDI T: FERNANDO F. MENDONÇA
Proper labeling and identification can be done by trained individuals monitoring elasmobranch landings from artisanal to industrial
fisheries or in supermarkets with modern
genetic identification techniques (4, 9, 10).
With this action, the general public would
be able to make educated decisions about
whether or not to consume shark meat. This
matter is fundamental to marine conservation
and to maintaining sustainable and transparent seafood consumption.
*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. D. Pauly, R. Hilborn, T. A. Branch, Nature 494, 303 (2013).
2. G. M. Cailliet et al., Isurus oxyrinchus in “IUCN 2012; IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species” ( www.iucnredlist.org).
3. Council Regulation (EC) No. 104/2000 of December 17,
1999 on the common organization of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/
4. M. Blanco, R. I. Pérez-Martín, C. G. Sotelo, J. Agric. Food
Chem. 56, 9868 (2008).
5. S. Vannuccini, FAO Tech. Fish. Pap. 389, 1 (1999).
6. Public Civil Actions, 5019317-04.2011.404.7100 and
7. M. Silva, “Instrução Normativa n° 05,” Diário Oficial da
União, n. 102, Seção 1 (2004), pp. 136-142; http://4ccr.
pdf [in Portuguese].
8. CITES 2013, Appendix II ( www.cites.org/eng/news/
9. E. H. K. Wong, M. S. Shivji, R. H. Hanne, Mol. Ecol. Res. 9
(Suppl. 1), 243 (2009).
10. F. F. Mendonça et al., Conserv. Genet. Res. 2, 31 (2010).
Letters to the Editor
Letters (~300 words) discuss material published in
Science in the past 3 months or matters of general interest. Letters are not acknowledged upon
receipt. Whether published in full or in part, Letters are subject to editing for clarity and space.
Letters submitted, published, or posted elsewhere,
in print or online, will be disqualified. To submit a
Letter, go to www.submit2science.org.
THE REPORT BY L. A. GARIBALDI ET AL. (“WILD
pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance,” 29 March, p.
1608; published online 28 February 2013)
demonstrates that wild pollinators enhance
production of many crop species. However, it
is premature and possibly mistaken to relate
this result directly to food production (“The
global plight of pollinators,” J. M. Tylianakis,
Perspectives, 29 March, p. 1532; published
online 28 February 2013). Pollination is but
one of many, often conflicting, factors that
affect the production of animal-pollinated
crops. Justifying conservation of pollinators
(and pollinator habitat) on the basis of food
production remains a spurious argument if
other factors are not considered.
From a farmer’s perspective, management
to enhance pollinators makes little sense if
that same action has high opportunity costs.