Nature Foundation Advises Against the Consumption of Shark Meat Due to Mercury Poisoning Risk. Sharks Also Protected in St. Maarten Waters

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is advising against the consumption of shark meat due to the flesh containing high levels of mercury and the potential for ciguatera fish poisoning. The United States Food and Drug Administration FDA in a recent CNN article has issued a warning against the eating of shark meat which may expose consumers to potentially dangerous, high levels of the metal mercury. While certain amounts of mercury in the environment is natural, growing worldwide pollution of our oceans appears to be increasing the risk of high mercury levels in some fish, particualry predatory fish such as sharks. According to the FDA too much mercury in one’s diet from any source can cause loss of coordination, blindness or even death.
The Nature Foundation has been noticing that a few restaurants are advertising shark on their menus; “This poses two problems; the first is related to the health risks associated with the consumption of sharks, the second is related to the fact that, although shark meat is legal to own the intentional harming and killing of sharks is banned on the island,” read a Nature Foundation release.
The reputation of sharks as blood thirsty creatures are largely exaggerated by sensationalist reports and thousands more people are killed in dog attacks yearly than are bitten by sharks. Countries all over the world have recognized the importance of these animals and nearly two years after the historic decision to legally protect sharks and rays in St. Maarten’s territorial waters sharks and rays are now also under international protection, becoming the latest additions to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The Nature Foundation has also been conducting a Shark Research Project including a study that established that a single live shark is worth up to USD $884,000 to the economy of the island, as is opposed to just a few dollars dead. The majority of divers who come to the island pay top dollar to see sharks in their Natural Environment. These divers also rent cars, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and drink in bars. Taking all of that into account and based on research conducted by the Nature Foundation a single live shark contributes $884,000 to the economy of St. Maarten annually. Sharks are an apex predator and are essential to the health of local coral reefs and if we do not have sharks we will lose our coral reef ecosystem. Sharks keep the reefs clean of unhealthy fish which in turn keeps the ecosystem in balance. They are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food, produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather.
“Aside from the health threats associated with consuming shark meat it would be a wise and conscious decision to avoid eating these animals because they are close to becoming extinct. Despite their status as protected on St. Maarten sharks are increasingly under global pressure. A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Therefore we would like to appeal to the community to avoid consuming sharks.”