Seafood Of India

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Welcome to India's first Exclusive Seafood Portal

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Changing Consumption Patterns Threaten Shark and Ray Species in India: A Shift Beyond Traditional Communities

In a recent study conducted by researchers, it has been revealed that the consumption of shark and ray meat in India is no longer confined to tribal and coastal communities. Instead, the demand has expanded to include new demographics such as foreign tourists and the middle- and upper-class population. This shift in consumption patterns raises concerns about the sustainability of fishing practices and the potential threat to shark species in India, already the world’s third-largest exploiter of sharks and rays.

The study, led by Divya Karnad from the Department of Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, identified 2,649 seafood restaurants across 10 coastal states and Union territories in India. Surprisingly, 292 of these establishments featured shark meat on their menus, indicating a growing market for elasmobranch meat.

Goa emerged as a hotspot for shark and ray meat consumption, with 35.8% of its seafood restaurants offering these dishes. Tamil Nadu followed closely with 34.6%, and Maharashtra accounted for 4.6%. Together, Goa and Tamil Nadu represented a substantial 70% of all restaurants serving shark meat in India, totaling 251.6 tonnes of shark meat annually. This quantity is equivalent to approximately 83,866 sharks, each weighing around 3 kg, constituting 9.8% of India’s annual elasmobranch landings.

Historically, shark and ray meat consumption was limited to coastal and tribal communities, but the study highlights a significant increase in demand since the 1960s and 1970s, both in South Asia and globally. The authors also noted a shift in preferences, with even deep-sea sharks now being consumed in India.

The study emphasizes the threat posed by local consumption to over a third of shark and ray species globally, which are already facing extinction risks. While India has implemented some protective measures, such as banning live-finning and the export of fins, legal local meat consumption continues to drive fishing activities.

Insights from Goa, where shark consumption is deeply rooted in tradition, reveal changing consumption patterns. Local Goans and foreign tourists, particularly from Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Israel, are among the main consumers of shark meat. The authors stress that this trend jeopardizes not only small-bodied sharks but also juvenile individuals of large-bodied species, potentially impacting their reproductive cycles.

To address this issue, the researchers propose various measures, including substituting other types of seafood, reducing bycatch, raising prices, and conducting seafood consumer awareness campaigns. Additionally, they suggest highlighting the health risks associated with consuming shark and ray meat, as these species often carry concentrations of heavy and toxic metals above permissible limits.

The findings, published in the journal Conservation Science and Practice, underscore the need for urgent conservation efforts to mitigate the growing threat to shark and ray species in India.

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