Rob Stewart hangs out with a hammerhead shark.

Many people assume that because they don’t eat shark fin soup, they can’t possibly be contributing to the demise of the sharks and rays. While shark fin soup does account for a considerable amount of shark consumption, there are many other culprits. Even the most avid of conservationists are shocked to realize they’ve been contributing to the decimation of sharks unknowingly. It’s quite likely you’ve consumed shark - and even have products containing sharks in your home – without being aware of it. There’s even shark in many of our cosmetics!

In Sharkwater Extinction, Rob Stewart embarks on a journey to uncover the industries driving the slaughter of sharks. Many shark products are completely unrecognizable or don’t contain the word shark in the product name. Supplements, pet foods, vitamins, make-up, lotions, fertilizer, and even lipsticks  are all known to contain shark products. Increasingly, shark is mislabeled as other, more appealing fish.

Unfortunately, the burden is on the consumer to educate themselves about products that contain shark and perform the necessary detective work to ensure they are not contributing to the demise of sharks. To help, here is an ever-evolving list of common uses for shark products.

Shark Products at a Glance

We don’t think you want to be contributing to the demise of one of the oldest, most important predators the planet has without knowing it! The uses for shark are vast, as are the places shark products can be found.

The following products could contain shark:

  • Whitefish fillets. fish patties, or fish fingers

  • Rock Salmon

  • Flake

  • Imitation crab sticks

  • Supplements containing chondroitin or squalene/squalane (shark cartilage & shark liver oil)

  • Pet food, supplements, and treats

  • Garden fertilizer

  • Jewelry (teeth)

  • Souvineers (shark jaws & teeth)

  • Anti-aging cream

  • Skin lotion

  • Deodorant

  • Hair dye and conditioner

  • Makeup: Eye shadow, Lipstick, and Foundation

  • Lip Balm

  • Sunscreen

  • Face cleanser

  • Wallets, Purses, Shoes, Handbags, even furniture made from Shagreen (Shark & Stingray Leather)

  • Vaccines (Pandemic flu, malaria vaccines)

  • Medicinal creams (healing of wounds, skin irritations, hemerrhoids)

  • Supplements & alternative medicines containing gill rakers

  • Alternative medicines (for arthritis, asthma, eczema, shingles, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, fevers, psoriasis and cancer)

  • Energy & health drinks (look for chondroitin)

  • Shagreen (sandpaper)

  • Industrial lubricants and cleansers

Shark liver oil (Squalene or Squalane):

Squalene/squalane is an oil that is derived from the shark’s liver and is used in cosmetic products ranging from anti-aging creams, lotions, deodorants, hair conditioners, eye shadows, lipstick, lip balms, sunscreen, and cleansers. It is also used in vaccines and sold in the form of pills and supplements as it is believed to have medicinal value, and is prevalent in many medicinal creams. Finally, squalene has some limited industrial uses as well, serving as a basis for lubricants and cleaning agents.We’ll be covering this topic in depth in our next article.

Shark cartilage pills / powders:

Shark cartilage is a popular dietary supplement and alternative medicine believed to provide benefits to people suffering from a range of ailments from arthritis, asthma, eczema, shingles, rheumatism, hemorrhoids, psoriasis, though one of its best-known uses is as an alternative cure to cancer. It is commonly sold worldwide, despite the lack of clinical evidence that commercial supplements have any beneficial effect. Given the unsubstantiated claims in reference to cancer, it is growing in popularity and availability.

Sold around the world in the form of pills or powders at health food stores, drugstores and anywhere else dietary supplements are sold, these pills are also manufactured worldwide as well. Look for shark cartilage or chondroitin (derived from shark cartilage) on the list of ingredients.

Shark, skate & ray meat:


Shark and ray meat is consumed all over the world; however, it is not nearly as popular as other fish species, probably due to processing requirements. Until recently, shark meat was considered of lesser quality and was not heavily featured on menus and store shelves. However, popularity for shark meat in the western world has risen, and it is quite common in the U.S. to find thresher or mako at your local grocery store chain or on a restaurant menu.

One underhanded technique restaurants and stores often employ is masking the use of shark by changing the name. Take for instance, the spiny dogfish shark. Even you may have eaten this little shark unknowingly, because they have been re-labeled to a more  appealing term -- rock salmon. They are commonly used for fish and chips. Spiny dogfish shark is known as saumonette (“little salmon”) in France, and schillerlocken (“locks of Schiller” – dried shark) and seeaal (“sea eel”) in Germany. In Australia and New Zealand, whitefish fillets or flake are actually elephant or ghosts shark.

Often the fish you are eating is mis-labeled as well. In fact a recent study in Canada by Oceana indicated nearly half of the fish tested was labeled incorrectly. Knowing the source of your fish – or better yet not consuming fish at all – ensures you are not contributing to the demise of sharks.

Below is a growing list of names for shark meat:

  • Flake
  • Huss
  • Catfish
  • Dogfish
  • Grayfish
  • Steakfish
  • Whitefish
  • Lemon Fish
  • Cape Steak
  • Rock Salmon
  • Smoked Rock Salmon
  • Smoked Dogfish
  • Rigg
  • Gummy
  • Sea Ham
  • Sokomoro
  • Tofu Shark
  • Ocean Filet

Surimi and Fish Sticks/Patties:

Shark is often used as an ingredient in composite fish products. For instance, it is widely utilized in surimi (otherwise known as artificial crab, lobster or shrimp.) Next time you order a California Sushi Roll, think twice! And it is known to find its way into generic aggregate products like whitefish patties, fish sticks, and smoked fish strips. Next time you order at a fast food restaurant, we’d recommend skipping the fish. Being an aware consumer is the best defense against eating shark without realizing it.

Shark Meat for Livestock, Pets & Fertilizers:

Shark byproducts are also commonly used in fishmeal (which is used to feed pets and livestock amongst other purposes) and also fertilizers – including those you would purchase at your local garden shop.

Shark is commonly used in many pet products including dog and cat food, supplements (particularly for joint health), and even chew toys. One online retailer recently offered thresher shark “bully sticks” for sale.

Shark and ray leather (Shagreen):

Since shark skin is exceptionally durable, it has been used to make leather for decades. However, recently, shark leather has become exceedingly popular, particularly amongst the high-fashion crowd. In fact celebrities such as Will Smith and Gordon Ramsay have been seen wearing it – and the likes of Tory Burch, Jimmy Choo, and even Nike use it for their products.  Shark and stingray leather products are commonly used to manufacture luxury items such as boots, shoes, handbags, wallets, belts, cell phone cases, notebooks, and even watch straps. According to the United Nations, tiger, lemon, dusky, nurse, sandbar, porbeagle, shortfin mako, scalloped hammerhead and bull sharks, and scaly whip rays are most often used in the manufacture of these goods.

Shark teeth and jaws:

Throughout the world, shark teeth, jaws, dried sharks, and even sharks preserved in bottles can be found in trinket and souvenir shops – particularly those in near proximity to the sea. Additionally, the use of shark teeth in high fashion jewelry has also become quite prevalent. You can also find shark teeth and jaws openly on marketplaces such as eBay. Only the trade of the species listed on CITES are illegal – meaning white, whale, and basking sharks are supposedly protected. However, white shark products are still openly available in the market (and a black market industry also exists in which jaws from white sharks can sell for over $10,000 USD).

Shark Fins:

Shark fins are sold dried or in the form of prepared foods. These products are sold legally throughout the world, and can be found throughout Asia, as well as in most major cities, typically in areas called “Chinatowns”.  They can be purchased at stores, restaurants, herbalists, and also online from distributors either frozen or dried. Typically shark fins are used for soups; however, there is a plethora of other delicacies that also utilize shark fins. And, given its association with stature, more and more continue to arise – even pet food.

We think you should know when an endangered predator is turning up in something you consume – and with some pressure, we know we can force companies to disclose such information, and in many cases, make their products without sharks. That’s why we’ve started a movement called SharkFree.

Through science, grassroots tools and education, we want to make ALL the products we buy #SHARKFREE.  #SHARKFREE is a campaign to keep sharks out of our products, so we can reduce pressure on their populations and save them from extinction. It starts by ensuring you and your home are #SHARKFREE.

This is the third of a four part series leading up to the release of Rob Stewart's final gift to us: Sharkwater Extinction, on October 19. Julie Andersen, who worked with Rob on the film is taking A\J readers on a journey into deeper understanding of the mysterious, powerful and dare we say... loveable? species.


Julie Andersen is a passionate shark advocate and diver, a decade-long Team Sharkwater member, and co-founder of Shark Angels, Shark Savers, United Conservationists and Fin Free – all non-profits dedicated to the protection of animals she loves - @juliesharkangel

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