It’s that famous time of year again: Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! As much as we love to learn about our favorite underwater predator from a distance, we may encounter sharks on land more often than we imagine, like in our food.
During these dog days of summer, it’s nice to eat something light and refreshing to help you cool down from the heat. A fish taco can be just the right thing-with simple and clean flavors, it can be the perfect refreshing lunch on a hot day. But not all fish tacos are created equal. According to Discovery Channel’s Sunday documentary, “Great White Invasion,” reporters are linking harvested shark meat that can be reaching our food in unregulated markets, like those in Mexico. This shark meat is often sold in local markets under disguised names and if bought by restaurants and street food vendors, can then become a menu item in popular dishes, like fish tacos. As exotic or appealing as it may sound, ingesting shark meat can in fact be dangerous. Here’s why:
Sharks will often eat the bottom-feeders in the water, creatures that eat a lot of minerals on the ocean floors. Thus, these creatures will have high levels of mercury in them, and as sharks eat more and more of these fish, their own mercury level skyrockets.
When fishing boats are out to sea, they’ll sometimes inadvertently catch sharks in nets, or purposely catch sharks to harvest their fins. Often times, fishermen will catch a shark, cut off the fin, and release the shark back into the water, often leaving them to die because of the new wound where their fin used to be. The more humane fishermen will harvest the fins back on land, leaving them with all the shark meat. This isn’t usually a very popular commodity, so to profit from the whole fish, markets will sell the meat under a different fish name, like Moki.
This meat is then bought for cheap prices and used by restaurants and street food vendors as filler for fish dishes; thus, exposing humans to a potentially dangerous meal. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning to women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young children saying that they should abstain from eating shark because of the very high levels of mercury. Yet, everyone should listen to this warning since high levels of mercury are dangerous to anyone.
So when in Mexico, you may want to think twice about what might just be in that fish taco you’re about to order.