A word on flake
Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide ranks all shark as red, or ‘Say No’.
This is for a number of reasons, including depletion of shark species around Australia and the world, poor management of shark fisheries in some Australian jurisdictions, lack of knowledge as to what species we’re importing, and protected species interactions in some shark fisheries, e.g. dolphin deaths in the gummy shark fishery off South Australia.
The vast majority of shark meat is sold as ‘flake’ in fish and chip shops. The name 'flake' only refers to two species of gummy shark according to the Australian Fish Name Standard - one species from Australia and one from New Zealand. However, as the standard is not currently legally binding, shark meat from other species is also termed 'flake'. There is currently no regulation that ensures all seafood sellers identify the species that the shark meat is from.
Gummy shark from Australia mainly comes from stocks fished off southern Australia, a fishery that’s managed by the Commonwealth Government. Gummy shark is currently red listed in the Guide due to the impact of fishing on school shark. Although the biology and stock status of gummy shark is relatively well understood and there are no concerns over the abundance of gummy sharks, school sharks are also caught in the fishery. School sharks were once a target species of the fishery, but overfishing led to depleted stock status. As it is challenging to catch gummy sharks without catching school sharks, school shark stocks have not rebuilt and are still classified as ‘overfished’ in fishery reports.
A number of endangered sharks are regularly caught in Australian fisheries. For example, scalloped hammerhead sharks (Endangered on the IUCN Red List) are caught within the QLD-managed East Coast Inshore Fin Fish Fishery. Nearly 1,000 shortfin mako sharks (Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List) were caught in a three month period in Commonwealth fisheries and sandbar sharks (Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List) are targeted in a NSW fishery. We’re also importing from countries which possibly have poorer regulation than our own, with no understanding as to what species they may be. So while ‘flake’ remains a general term for any kind of meat that comes from a shark, and until management actions rebuild school shark stocks, AMCS recommends choosing a more sustainable alternative to have with chips.