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

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Yes, you can eat a shark’s meat. However, the question should be, SHOULD you go eating 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, I had some reservations about consuming shark meat when I learned that some sharks are tasty. As a spearfisherman, the whole karma thing can make dives unnerving. Maybe it’s also all those seasons of Shark Week I watched as a kid.

If you’re curious about eating shark meat, you’re in the right place! Here’s what you should know about eating sharks.

My First Shark Catch and Cook

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

First, I despise the practice of shark finning for shark fin soup. I think it’s cruel and 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 sharing the bounty with friends and family is a good start.

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

Surf Fishing Soupfin Shark: My Experience

Last year I decided to try catching a soupfin 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 got 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 them bleeding. Not every fish you throwback has a high probability of survival.

Make sure to observe a fish’s condition before deciding whether to release it or bring it home. Check to see if they are stressed, bleeding, or injured.

Here’s How to Prepare Shark Meat (Step by Step)

We knew our soupfin wouldn’t 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.

Step 1. Bleed the Shark

Bleed and soak it in saltwater to increase the quality of your shark meat. First, cut the gills. Then, cut a deep gash on both sides of the tail.

And put the shark in a tide pool deep enough to cover it and wait for an hour.

After this, it’s time to carry the shark to the car and put it into a cooler to take home and start the at-home cleaning process.

Step 2. Cleaning the Shark

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

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

We waited for 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 improve the meat quality, but we were doing this late at night and were tired.

Step 3. 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. We performed a standard fillet-cutting method when we got closer to the tail.

Some people recommend soaking the shark 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.

Step 4. Storing Shark Meat

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

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

YouTube video

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. It’s essential to watch your consumption to reduce your mercury intake. So the more shark you eat, the more dangerous it is.

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

I 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 sharks, swordfish, and other large fish is likely more harmful than beneficial.

YouTube video

Smell of Ammonia in Shark Meat

Compared to other large seafood, shark meat contains the chemical urea. As mentioned above, shark excrete urea through their flesh, and when not prepared properly, the meat can smell like ammonia.

Urea in a shark’s body is used to help regulate the difference between seawater and the fluids in their bodies. In a way, it provides balance, so the shark’s cells don’t excrete or absorb a lot of water. When a shark dies, however, the urea present in its body will break down and turn into ammonia.

This is one of the main reasons why it’s important to learn how to prepare a shark’s meat properly for consumption.

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?

Shark 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.

Is it safe to eat sharks?

Yes, sharks are safe to eat as long as they are consumed moderately.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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