What sharks can you eat legally?

Eating shark meat is legal in most parts of the world, however there are some regulations around which species can be fished and sold. Here is a quick overview of some of the most common shark species and their legal status when it comes to consumption:

Shark Species That Are Legal to Eat

Here are some of the most common shark species that can be legally fished and eaten in many parts of the world:

  • Mako Shark – Shortfin and longfin mako shark meat is considered good eating and is legal to consume in most regions. Their status is not threatened.
  • Thresher Shark – The meat from thresher sharks is tasty and can be found in stores and restaurants. They are not overfished.
  • Blue Shark – Blue shark meat is consumed in many countries and is often used for fish and chips. Blue sharks have healthy global populations.
  • Hammerhead Shark – The meaty flesh of hammerhead shark is legal to eat in most locations. Some hammerhead species are endangered, but others are not.
  • Blacktip Shark – Blacktip shark meat is consumed in the U.S. and internationally. Blacktip populations are not considered threatened globally.

In addition to the species above, there are many other sharks that can legally be eaten depending on specific local laws and regulations. Always check local rules before fishing for or consuming any shark species.

Shark Species That Are Illegal to Eat

Here are some examples of sharks that are currently illegal to catch and eat due to conservation concerns and population declines:

  • Great White Shark – Great whites are protected internationally due to their vulnerable conservation status. Eating their meat is banned.
  • Basking Shark – Basking sharks are endangered and protected in many regions, making eating their meat illegal.
  • Whale Shark – Whale sharks are classified as vulnerable. Fishing and eating whale shark is prohibited in most countries.
  • Sand Tiger Shark – Sand tiger sharks are classified as vulnerable globally. Consuming their meat is outlawed in many regions.
  • Night Shark – Night sharks are a protected species in certain areas, such as the Mediterranean. Eating them is restricted.

There are many other examples of endangered or threatened shark species that cannot legally be caught or eaten. It’s important to know which species’ populations are healthy and can sustain fishing pressure.

Countries Where Eating Shark Meat is Banned

While eating shark is legal in many coastal countries, there are some places where consuming shark meat has been entirely banned:

  • India – Eating shark meat is completely banned in India due to the cultural belief that sharks are sacred animals.
  • California – California passed a ban on selling and possessing shark fins, which effectively prohibits eating shark.
  • Oregon – Strict bans are in place in Oregon against commercial shark fishing and personally catching sharks.
  • Illinois – Illinois was the first U.S. state to ban the sale, trade, distribution and possession of shark fins.
  • Canada – Canada has banned the practice of “finning” sharks for their fins, making eating shark difficult.

There are a handful of other countries and states that have instituted partial or total bans on shark consumption, either for conservation or cultural reasons.

Countries Where Eating Shark Meat is Popular

While some places restrict or prohibit eating shark, it is a common cuisine in many coastal regions around the world. Here are some areas where shark meat dishes are popular and often on menus:

  • Iceland – Greenland shark meat is a delicacy in Iceland, often served dried or fermented.
  • China – China is one of the largest consumers of shark fins for shark fin soup.
  • Japan – Shark meat is used for a variety of Japanese dishes including surimi, sashimi, and tempura.
  • Australia – Australians have a long history of eating flaky shark meat, often fried or grilled.
  • South Africa – South Africans cook shark meat into stews, braai it, and prepare other local dishes.
  • Papua New Guinea – Coastal populations in PNG rely on shark meat as a key protein source.

Regions like Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and Oceania all have culinary traditions that include sharks, when sustainably and legally caught.

Shark Fishing Regulations

To legally catch and eat shark meat, both commercial and recreational fishermen must follow all local shark fishing regulations. Some regulations include:

  • Obtaining proper licenses and permits
  • Following size limits and bag limits
  • Avoiding finning and requiring whole sharks to be landed
  • Reporting catch numbers and locations
  • Abiding by seasonal restrictions or closures
  • Using approved tackle and fishing gear

Additionally, individual species that are endangered or threatened have stricter targeted prohibitions. Regulations are aimed at allowing sustainable shark fishing while conserving populations.

Shark Management Controversies

There are some controversies around shark management and the legality of eating shark meat:

  • Catch limits set by individual countries may not prevent overfishing based on scientific advice.
  • Exceptions for native cultural fishing may contradict conservation efforts.
  • Bans often focus on fins, but meat consumption also impacts shark deaths.
  • Regulations can be lacking in international waters outside of national control.
  • Lax enforcement allows banned shark products to still reach markets.

Improved international cooperation and enforcement are needed to ensure shark fishing and consumption are sustainably managed for the future.


Many shark species can be legally caught and eaten sustainably. But certain vulnerable sharks are protected by bans on fishing and eating their meat. Regulations vary globally, with some countries outlawing shark meat altogether while others have a long cultural history of consuming sharks. Following local laws and supporting responsible shark fishing practices helps ensure shark populations remain stable into the future.

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