Can You Eat Sharks? Should You?

Most aggressive sharks - blacktip shark
© Gino Santa Maria/Shutterstock.com

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: November 2, 2022

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Fish consumption is part of our daily foods as humans and is likely one of the meals we are most excited about at lunch and dinner time. Although they make most of our delicacies and are a good source of protein, we are pretty sure that many people would assume that most fishes are safe to consume. 

Are some fish thought to be dangerous for human consumption? Do sharks fall into this category of dangerous fish? Let’s unravel all you need to know about eating sharks and answer the question: can you eat shark?

Can You Eat Sharks?

A Caribbean reef shark swims with school of jacks.

Shark meat can be unhealthy for consumption.

©Maui Topical Images/Shutterstock.com

While you can eat shark and although shark meat is legal for consumption in the United States, it is not exactly healthy because it has been known to contain high levels of mercury. So, with a resounding emphatic tone, we say no! You shouldn’t consider eating shark meat at any point in time.

It is paramount to know that these groups of elasmobranch fishes are inseparable from mercury contamination which is very damaging to the human body. Unlike salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna delicacies rich in omega-3-fatty acids, shark consumption can cause neuropsychological disorders, blindness, and a worst-case scenario, death to humans. Another very serious concern for mercury intake is for women in their childbearing years.

Why You Shouldn’t Consider Eating Sharks

Fastest Sea Animal: Mako Shark

Mako sharks

have high levels of mercury.

©Al McGlashan/Shutterstock.com

Mercury is an element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, having the capacity to exist in different physical forms. Primarily, this chemical element can exist in metallic, inorganic, and organic forms, with varying levels of harm to humans. It has the sole power of inflicting severe damage on the kidneys, eyes, lungs, skin, and nervous system.

Regarding mercury’s prevalence, this organic element is released naturally and through human activities in the environment. Sadly, its pollution cuts across emissions from volcanoes, forest fires, the weathering of rocks, the burning of fossil fuels, the use of coal-powered trains, and the burning of medical waste.

Large predatory fishes, like sharks, are likely to have innumerable quantities of mercury in their bodies because most of their meals consist of smaller fishes that hunt edible plankton at the start of the food chain.

Negative Health Effects of Eating Sharks 

What Do Great White Sharks Eat?

Eating mercury-infested sharks can lead to brain degradation and dementia.

©iStock.com/atese

The adverse effect of eating mercury-infested sharks cannot be over-emphasized. You may have heard or even eaten shark fin soup. In some regions of the world it is a popular dish and used for special occasions. Recommendations have been made to reduce the amounts of time per year this is consumed. Unfortunately, even people who have ichthyophobia are not free from the devastating claws of mercury exposure. In truth, exposure to large quantities of organic mercury is capable of causing a decline in the health status of the peripheral and central nervous systems.

A journal cited a devastating outbreak of mercury-infested fishes between 1932 and 1968 in Minamata, Japan. The city remained in the headlines because there was an escalating effect of the unethical discharge of alloys of mercury into the Minamata bay by an acetic acid factory. Over fifty thousand people were affected by the consumption of mercury-infested fishes, leading to rising cases of paralysis, brain degradation, and dementia.

What Type of Fish is Safe to Eat?

Regardless of our concern about mercury infestation and whether or not you can eat shark, fishes generally have high levels of protein and omega-3 fatty acids that are known to be very vital to human health. Interestingly, the high intake of protein-rich fish mitigates several health challenges, including heart disease, dry skin, brittle hair, thin nails, rashes, and other severe ailments. By consenting to the American Heart Association (AHA), encouraging regular consumption of healthy fish meat at least twice a week would decrease the mortality rate across the globe.

Keta salmon being prepared for cooking

The taste of the fish is delicate and mild, and recipes call for it to be poached, pan-fried, baked, broiled, steamed and eaten raw as sushi or sashimi.

©Katarzyna Hurova/Shutterstock.com

Here are some of the fishes that are best for human consumption:

Salmon

Salmon are very nutritious fish that inhabit the aquatic world; they are rich in many vital nutrients needed by the human body, including protein, phosphorus, selenium, vitamins B12 and B6, healthy fats, thiamine, and pantothenic acid. For improved health, it is important for people to inculcate salmon into their daily diets.

Codfish

Codfish is another valuable source of protein. Fascinatingly, health disorders like goiters, congenital disabilities, and symptoms of hypothyroidism can all be mitigated with the regular consumption of this fish species. Meat from codfish is relatively low in fat and rich in iodine content; a vital mineral needed to aid thyroid function. Remember, the human body’s metabolism is largely controlled by thyroid-regulated hormones, which aid cognitive function, so it is best to stick to the codfish diet.

Codfish, for centuries, have proven to be very important in the daily lives of humans, even providing healthy protein for the locals in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Intriguingly, Cape Cod got its name from an English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold who named the city in 1602 after taking aboard a great store of codfish. 

Herring

Herring are a great contributor to human health, especially if you are concerned about your heart and brain. They contain amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that are valuable in aiding the proper development of the retinal as well as boosting neural-immune function. It is wise to say that EPA and DHA help maintain the proper functioning of the brain and help fight against heart disease. By default, regular consumption of herring keeps one medically fit.

Mahi-Mahi

Residents of Florida greatly desire this wonderful fish; it is very rich in lean protein, which means the number of calories in the fish is low. This unique fish also contains iron and vitamin B, which help improve red blood cells’ condition and promote brain function. Mahi-Mahi also contains potassium and selenium, which are vital to human health.

Perch

This delicious white-fleshed fish provides the human body with nutrients and entices the taste buds with its exquisite flavor and sweet savor. The perch fish is packed with productive nutrients capable of maintaining the immune system and heart conditions.

Key Points Worthy of Mention about Mercury:

  • The most prevalent places to find metallic mercury include soil, air, and water.
  • Since mercury is considered one of the top harmful chemicals to human health, the World Health Organization (WHO) has kicked against releasing mercury-infested foods and seafood to the public.


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