Products

Shark

Alopias vulpinus (Common thresher); Alopias pelagicus (Pelagic thresher); Carcharinus limbatus (blacktip sharks); Isurus oxyrinchus (shortfin mako) Squalus acanthias (spiny dogfish)

Market Name(s): Shark, Thresher, Mako, Blacktip

Contact Purchasing
Shark
  • Primary Source: Florida, California, Hawaii, Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada.
  • Season: California thresher: August - January; Blacktip: April - August; Mako: June - October. Imported supplies available year-round, but supplies are spotty late December and early January.
  • Primary Fishing Method: Gillnet, longline.

Size Range:

Max Size: 1000 lbs

Blacktip:
Avg. Size: 80 lbs

Thresher:
Avg. Size: 200 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: Trunks, skin-off loins.

FROZEN: Trunks, skin-off loins.

Storage & Handling

Shark should bled and iced immediately after being caught. Properly handled and well iced at 32°F, fresh shark will last up to 20 days from capture. Frozen shark will last up to a year if stored at -5° to -15°F.

Cooking Suggestions

Shark has a firm meaty texture that is quite similar to swordfish, which means it is excellent baked, broiled or grilled. Try it pan-seared with onions and sage. Because it is on the lean side, many chefs will marinate shark to keep it moist and increase its flavor profile. Surprisingly, shark can be used for excellent fish and chips.

Selling Points

  • Tender, boneless meat with an excellent savory flavor.
  • Excellent value compared to swordfish and tuna.
  • Some species such as blacktip are very attractive additions to a seafood case.

Defects

  • Ammonia odor.
  • Gray meat color.
  • Soft, mushy texture.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Specialist in large, high-quality, green thresher sharks from California fishery
  • Purchase only mature sharks to protect the fishery

Summary

In many cases, sharks have gotten too popular for their own good. As demand for their meaty, white meat has increased, some shark populations are feeling the pressure. Still, there are good supplies of the most popular species such as thresher and blacktip shark available. But since there are more than 300 species of shark found around the world, its pays to know your way around this family of fish.

In general smaller sharks (under 50 pounds) tend to be better eating, as their flesh is more tender. There are exceptions, however; large thresher and makos are very good eating sharks.

All sharks must be handled very carefully and bled quickly as they lack a urinary system. Instead sharks (and skates) carry urea in their blood and tissue and excrete it through their flesh by osmosis. After a shark dies, its urea turns to ammonia, which can permeate the flesh (soaking shark meat in a brine can remove the ammonia odor).

One reason Americans like shark: No bones. Instead of bony vertebrae, sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton.

Thresher sharks, which are easily distinguished by their elongated tail, are widely marketed in the U.S., usually fresh. Two threshers are sold in the U.S.: the common, or “green,” thresher, Alopias vulpinus, and the pelagic, or “brown,” thresher, Alopias pelagicus. Threshers are large sharks that commonly weigh more than 100 pounds.

The common thresher is fished off both the East and West coasts, although more than 80% of the catch is made off California by gillnetters who target thresher from August through October before the swordfish season opens (during the swordfish fishery, thresher is landed as a bycatch). Off the East Coast, thresher is a bycatch of the longline swordfish fishery. Thresher landings in the U.S. average about 500 tons a year.

Pelagic threshers are both targeted and caught incidentally by hook and line fishermen and gillnetters in the Pacific from Ecuador to Mexico. Of the two species of thresher, common thresher is considered superior eating because of its attractive pink flesh.

Named for the black coloring on the tip of their dorsal fin, blacktip sharks, Carcharinus limbatus, are found throughout many of the warm waters of the world. In the U.S., they are fished from the mid Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico, with average annual landings of about 200 tons a year. A small shark, blacktip rarely exceed 80 pounds. Blacktip are in great demand from retailers for their white meat and rosy bloodline, which makes them a standout in a fish case. The name blacktip, however, is applied generically to any small shark, especially spinner and sandbar sharks. All of these sharks have dark dorsal fins and it is very difficult to tell them apart as they look and taste almost alike. Among seafood connoisseurs, the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, is considered the best eating shark (in fact it has been known to be substituted for swordfish by less scrupulous seafood suppliers). Makos are caught worldwide, primarily as an incidental catch in the longline tuna and swordfish fisheries.

U.S. fishermen catch about 250 tons of shortfin makos each year off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Makos are easily distinguished by their double bloodline. About 1,000 tons of fresh shark are imported into the U.S. each year. The leading suppliers are Mexico, Ecuador, Canada and Costa Rica. Most of this shark is pelagic thresher. The largest shark fishery in the world is for a number of species of small shark, which are commonly known as dogfish. In the U.S., more than 20,000 tons of spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias, are caught, more than 95% of which is landed by East Coast fishermen. Most of the dogfish caught in the U.S. is exported to Europe. In Germany it is often smoked. In England, where dogfish is called “rock salmon,” it is used in fish n’ chips.