A recent study shows most shark meat is mislabelled at fish markets and takeaway shops. 

The research involved the collection of 91 shark meat samples from 28 retailers across six Australian states and territories. 

The team employed DNA barcoding to identify the species in each sample and compared these findings with the labels provided by retailers. 

This process uncovered significant discrepancies between the labelled and actual species, violating the Australian Fish Names Standard (AFNS), which restricts the label 'flake' to only two sustainably caught shark species: the gummy shark and the New Zealand rig shark.

Alarmingly, 88 per cent of the samples labelled as 'flake' did not correspond to these species. 

More troubling was the discovery that nine of these mislabelled samples came from species currently listed as threatened in Australia, including the critically endangered scalloped hammerhead and school shark.

The issue of mislabelling was found to be particularly pronounced in takeaway shops compared to fish markets and wholesalers. 

This points to a greater level of misinformation at the consumer end of the supply chain.

Teagan Parker Kielniacz, lead researcher on the study, noted the deceptive use of the term ‘flake’, which many consumers assume denotes a sustainable choice, despite evidence to the contrary.

“Everybody wants to trust that what they're eating is what the label says it is,” Ms Parker Kielniacz says.

“Our study found that for 70 per cent of samples, we're not getting what's on the label – that's really significant.”

Nicolette Armansin, co-author and research supervisor, said improved labelling standards and enforcement are needed. 

“Many shark populations are facing unprecedented declines worldwide, and yet consumers have little idea of the provenance of the fish they are eating,” she said. 

Professor Adam Stow, head of the conservation genetics laboratory at Macquarie University, suggested that rapid DNA testing could be a solution. 

Such testing could serve as a reliable method for large-scale monitoring of seafood supply chains, ensuring that consumers receive accurate information about the products they purchase.

The findings have been published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Research.