Marine conservationists have expressed their anger after a rare blue shark was presented at a seafood festival in a British coastal city, before being cooked and served to the public.
Images taken at the event in Plymouth, in the southwest of England, show the creature being held aloft to the crowd, before it was used as part of a cooking demonstration on stage.
The photos of the deceased creature were posted on the social media channels of the city’s tourism board, Visit Plymouth, before they were later deleted.
Blue sharks are listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list and are a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. The creatures typically inhabit deep waters and migrate long distances across the world’s oceans.
A spokesperson for Plymouth City Council said that the shark was “inadvertently caught as a by-catch” and then presented at the “‘Catch of the Day’ session on the main stage.”
Molly Cato, a member of the European Parliament for the southwest of England, said that “by-catch cannot excuse this shameful behavior in my patch.
“Parading an endangered shark through Plymouth before chopping it up as part of a cookery event is not acceptable,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Shark Trust, a charity based in Plymouth which aims to safeguard existing shark populations, led the criticism of the incident.
“Plymouth is in the news today for all the wrong reasons,” the charity said in a statement to CNN. “The sale of a blue shark at last weekend’s seafood festival has sparked outrage on social media with many people rightfully upset at the way that the shark was “paraded” in front of the festival.
“It opens up debate about fisheries and their impact on sharks. The sight of a dead shark is upsetting, yet the harsh reality is that it is one of very, very many that continue to be caught without limits every day.”
The Ocean Conservation Trust, a global ocean conservation charity based at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, echoed the criticism.
Helen Gowans, a representative from the charity, said: “As an ocean conservation charity, we do not condone the eating of blue shark and were disappointed to see that a blue shark was shown off at the ‘Catch of the Day’ session, as well as being featured on the chef’s stage.
“We feel that showing the public how to cook this species and then offering them the chance to eat it at such a widely attended event could be damaging, encouraging intrigue and thus demand for blue shark on people’s plates moving forward.”
The incident came as the Plymouth Sound, a vast waterway located around the city, celebrated being made the UK’s first National Marine Park, aimed at championing marine conservation.
Plymouth City Council confirmed in a statement that it is “committed to protecting our marine environment and sustainable fishing, especially around endangered species such as sharks.”
“We do not condone what happened and we want to make sure that this does not happen again,” a spokesperson said.
They added that it was “unfortunate” that an image of the deceased shark had appeared on the Visit Plymouth Instagram account, and noted that it had been posted by a third party that had been given temporary access to post images of the event.
“This was the first time such a ‘takeover’ with an event partner had been organized and it was aimed at making the social media content more interactive and spontaneous,” the spokesperson said, noting that their social media policy will be reviewed for future events.
The council nevertheless said that the seafood festival was one of Plymouth’s “flagship annual events,” and “showcases the quality of fresh fish available in the city.”