Can You Eat Shark Meat? (Here’s Why It Can Be Dangerous)

Surf Fishing for Sharks | Soupfin Shark Catch and Cook

Yes, you can eat shark meat. However, the question should be, SHOULD you eat shark meat?

I’ve had a fascination with sharks my entire life. I grew up with a massive shark poster on my wall where I memorized the names and dreamed about swimming with them without a cage.

Therefore, when I learned that some sharks are tasty, I had some reservations. Plus, as a spearfisherman, the whole karma thing can make dives more unnerving. Maybe it’s also all those seasons of Shark Week I watched as a kid too.

My First Shark Catch and Cook

can you eat shark meat - soupfin shark fillets and steaks
Here’s the amount of meat a 65lb soupfin shark makes.

First, I despise the practice of shark finning for shark fin soup. I think it’s cruel, wasteful, and should be banned, and those who are caught face stiff life-changing punishments.

I’m for the lawful take of an animal if you use all parts of it. Eating and/or sharing the bounty with friends and family is a good start.

Putting the non-consumable bits in a garden or way for the nutrients to go back into the system is even better.

Surf Fishing Soupfin Shark

Last year I decided to try catching a soupfin down in La Jolla, California in the United States with the Coach, but primarily for catching and releasing.

After a few hours, we hooked up on one using a small wire leader and a chunk of bonito. This was exciting because earlier we had another hookup only to have the soupfin’s tail break off our line a few seconds into the first run.

After about fifteen minutes and fighting it up and down the beach, we were able to get it to shore. That’s where we saw it rolling in the sand.

This was unfortunate because the sand cut up the gills and had it bleeding. Not every fish you throwback has a high probability of survival.

That’s why it’s essential to look at the signs of the fish, whether it’s over-stressed, bleeding, or hurt to know when it’s better to take it home than release it (where lawful).

How is Shark Prepared? (Shark Meat Preparation Methods)

We knew our soupfin wasn’t going to make it if we tried to release it. Therefore, we knew that to do right by the shark, we’d need to prepare it for human consumption.

Sharks excrete urea through their flesh. This is a primary reason people don’t like eating shark meat because when ill-prepared, it leads to an ammonia odor and flavor that no one would enjoy.

Bleed the Shark

To increase the quality of your shark meat, you’re going to first need to bleed it and soak it in saltwater. Therefore, we first cut the gills and cut a deep gash on both sides of the tail.

We then put the shark in a tide pool deep enough to cover the shark and waited for an hour.

After an hour, it was time to carry the shark to the car and put it into a cooler to take home and start the at-home process of cleaning the shark.

Cleaning the Shark

preparing a shark
Here’s Coach cutting the shark into steaks and fillets.

Once home, it was time to remove the entrails and head. To make it easier, we hoisted the tail of the shark with a rope and let it hang. We then took a fillet knife and cut down the belly of the shark and let the guts fall into a bucket. After that, we removed the head, shark fins, and let the moisture drain out of the shark.

We waited for a little over an hour, and you could see the skin pull tight against the muscle. You can let it hang for longer as it should help with improving the quality of meat, but we were doing this late at night and were tired.

Filleting the Shark

Once the shark was ready to be steaked and filleted, we took down the hanging shark and placed it on a table.

We got the fillet knife nice and sharp and cut the main body into 2 inch thick steaks. When we got closer to the tail, we performed a standard fillet method of cutting.

Some people recommend soaking the meat in milk after you fillet, but we didn’t find that necessary if you let the shark soak in saltwater before bringing it home.

Storing Shark Meat

We placed the steaks and fillets into vacuum-sealed bags to save. Using a vacuum sealer removes the air from around the shark meat, which reduces the chance of spoiling.

This is nice if you want to freeze the meat or give it to friends.

Levels of Mercury in Shark Meat

Like any predatory fish, the levels of mercury are going to be high compared to smaller fish like sardines and anchovies. Shark meat is no different. Therefore it’s essential to watch your consumption of it to reduce your mercury intake.

High Levels of mercury can lead to different neuro-diseases, so it’s essential to read up on the published scientific literature out there and follow health guidelines. It can also be beneficial to get tested for mercury if you eat fish consistently. 

I personally choose to eat sharks no more than a few times a year, depending on the situation. It’s not a fish that should be eaten consistently. 

This Harvard article also states that eating shark, swordfish, and other large fish is likely more harmful than beneficial.

Which Sharks Are Good to Eat?

After talking with Coach, he ranks the taste of sharks as follows:

  1. Mako (Or other Requiem) Shark
  2. Thresher Shark
  3. Soupfin Shark
  4. Leopard Shark
  5. Others (Blue Shark, etc.)

I’ve personally eaten a soupfin shark and found it surprising. It has the texture of a steak and a delicate flavor that’s not overpowering. It made one heck of a burrito.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is shark meat edible?

Yes, certain sharks are good to eat.

Is shark meat poisonous to humans?

No, however, the meat is high in mercury, which can cause problems if eaten in high quantities.

How does shark meat taste?

Soupfin shark has the texture of steak and a light flavor. It holds a marinade or spice mix well.

What types of sharks are good to eat?

Soupfin, mako, thresher, and leopard sharks. Requiem sharks and Angel sharks have some of the best reputations on the plate.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing and spearfishing enthusiast. He's been fishing since he was 5 years old in the backcountry of Yosemite for trout and in the surf near his home in SoCal. Over the past 4 years, he's been spearfishing up and down the coast of California. He started Cast and Spear to help inspire others to get outside and chase their dream fish. Notable catches include spearing a 65-pound white sea bass, large grouper, and yellowtail down in Baja. When he's not in the water, he's usually fishing from his Gregor Baja aluminum boat or inflatable Takacat catamaran.
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