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Revenge of the Sharks

Shark fin soup could give you Alzheimer’s

It’s well known by now that sharks have a lot more to fear from humans than the other way round. We’re killing them by the hundreds of millions every year to the point where they’re now close to extinction.

But the sharks may have some bite left in them. Eating shark fin soup could cause you a long, slow death.

More than 70 millions sharks are killed each year just to make shark fin soup. When fishermen catch a shark, they slice of her fins and simply throw her back in the ocean to die.

But the soup may now be poisoning the people who eat it. That’s because with all the toxic run-off that makes its way into the oceans, sharks, as top predators, have more concentrated amounts of  chemicals in their systems than fish and marine mammals further down the food chain. And that means that when you eat anything from a shark, you’re dosing yourself up with poison.

An analysis of shark fins from Florida waters found high concentrations of ?-N-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The tests were done on tiny samples (not enough to harm the animals) taken from seven kinds of sharks, from hammerheads to nurse sharks. And the results were published in the journal Marine Drugs.

The levels of poison found in the sharks was similar to what’s found in the brains of Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease patients. The scientists note that previous research has linked the eating of BMAA-rich fruit bats in Guam with degenerative brain diseases.

“Not only does this work provide important information on one probable route of human exposure to BMAA, it may lead to a lowering of the demand for shark fin soup and consumption of shark products, which will aid ocean conservation efforts,” said study co-author Neil Hammerschlag, a University of Miami professor of marine affairs and policy