Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Heavy Metals in Market-Destined, Dried Shark Fins

Event Name/Location

American Elasmobranch Society 25th Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, July 22-27, 2009

Presentation Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Exploitation of sharks to supply the market demand for shark fins is arguably the largest driver of shark mortality worldwide. Combating shark overexploitation and achieving sustained conservation outcomes may best be accomplished not only by effective fishery management practices but also by also reducing market demand for fins. As with all commercial products, influencing market demand is fundamentally based on altering consumer awareness and purchase behavior. As apex predators, sharks are known to bioaccumulate heavy metals of concern to human health (e.g., mercury) in their flesh, leading to widely issued government warnings about limiting consumption of shark meat. Given that shark fins have a large consumer market and do not typically contain shark meat, we have investigated the prevalence of heavy metals known to be toxic to humans in low concentrations (total Mercury, Lead, Arsenic, Cadmium) in dried fins confiscated by NOAA's Office for Law Enforcement. An initial assessment of these metals in 75 market-destined fins showed that ~ 20% of the fins contained Lead levels exceeding US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) limits for safe consumption. Approximately 7% of the fins contained total Mercury close to or above US FDA levels. We report on these and ongoing analyses of heavy metals in more market fins in the context of various international government food safety guidelines.

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