Ask Corporations to stop selling threatened species and label shark meat

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It has come to our attention that shark and ray meat is available for purchase at some store locations like :

Walmart (Canada, Mexico, Central America)

Mega Super (Costa Rica)

La Comer (Mexico)

HEB ( Mexico)

Harris Teeter (Baltimore, Maryland)

Nations Fresh Foods ( Canada)

Publix ( USA)  most of the times labeling it

Mercadona ( SPAIN) most of the times labeling it

Consum ( SPAIN)  most of the times labeling it

This meat is inadequately labeled which prevents customers from making responsible buying choices. Shark and ray meat is largely an unsustainable seafood source as fishing rates are currently higher than these species are able to replace themselves. Those listed in threatened species categories on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) redlist are particularly vulnerable to extinction. We have taken the time to detail these points below. We ask for better labeling on shark and ray meat sold in your stores. We also ask that you reconsider the sale of meat from species listed as “vulnerable,” “endangered,” or “critically endangered” on the IUCN redlist.

Both sharks and rays are highly vulnerable to fishing pressures due to their life history traits. Chondrichthyan (cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays, and their relatives) species are slow-growing with many species taking over a decade to reach sexual maturity. They also produce few young after long periods of gestation. Evolutionarily this served sharks and rays well as these traits allow them to give birth to large young that are able to fend for themselves, historically lending them few natural enemies. However, these traits have also made them significantly more vulnerable to fishing pressures. In recent years, shark stocks have declined by 90%. Due to fishing pressures, fewer sharks are living to maturity. Because of the inability of fishing fleets to find adult sharks, most shark meat actually comes from juvenile sharks. Since these sharks are not physically capable of reproducing prior to capture, shark populations continue to decline at a rapid rate. According to the IUCN Shark Specialty Group (SSG) less than 15% of chondrichthyan species have safe stocks. The IUCN SSG has listed 30% of species as “endangered,” “vulnerable to extinction,” or “near threatened” and another 46% of species lack necessary data to determine their status. Chondrichthyan species are therefore the most threatened group of vertebrates on the planet. Shark and ray populations cannot sustain this continued exploitation.

Shark and ray species that are listed on the IUCN redlist as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered are listed in the charts on our website. For clarity, we have also included a diagram of IUCN redlist categories taken from their website. Please follow this link to see these graphics:

As you can see from the charts on our website many species of sharks and rays are highly threatened. If these population trends continue, scientists predict that most chondrichthyan fish species will be extinct within the next few decades. Several of the species listed in the charts above may currently be sold in your stores. However, due to insufficient labeling there is no definite way to know this. Nakawe Project team members visited the Walmart store in Guadalupe, Costa Rica in March 2017. Team members noted that shark was labeled with indiscriminate names such as “Cazon” and “Bolillo.” When an employee at that store was asked what type of shark it was they responded, “normal shark… from Costa Rican water.” There is no “normal” type of shark, in fact there are more than 500 species in our oceans today. The species of sharks that are most often fished in Costa Rican waters today are silky shark (near threatened), thresher (vulnerable), and hammerhead (endangered). However, because the shark and ray meat sold in your stores is not labeled with species and the sales people do not know what it is, consumers have no way of knowing if they are purchasing an endangered species or not. As large retail corporations with many stores, all of the businesses addressed within this letter hold a lot of power in environmental issues such as this. Your choice whether or not to sell threatened shark and ray species may make the difference in their impending extinction. For these reasons, we ask that you discontinue the sale of shark and ray species listed as “vulnerable,” “endangered,” or “critically endangered” on the IUCN redlist. We also ask for transparency in your stores by labeling the species of all shark and ray meat sold. 

 Populations of sharks and rays are quickly declining due to extremely high fishing pressures. If we can reduce the demand for threatened species it may be possible to give the populations of these species time to recover. Please consider labeling the meat sold in your stores to give consumers the opportunity to make environmentally conscious choices. Please also discontinue the sale of threatened shark and ray species in your stores.


Michelle Edwards & Regina Domingo

The Nakawe Project Team


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