“Payback’s a bitch! HA HA!”
Uh oh SpaghettiOs, better put your spoon ladled with stringy shark’s fin down and read this first.
According to a new study from researchers at the University of Miami, shark fin from sharks in South Florida’s coastal waters have been found to contain high concentrations of a neurotoxin that’s been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The neurotoxin, commonly known as BMAA, is produced by cyanobacteria, which gets eaten by small aquatic marine animals, which are then in turn eaten by sharks, and eventually, officials and businessmen looking to confer wicked amounts of face to their assembled guests.
Cyanobacteria is found in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and marine waters, which are areas where agricultural and industrial runoff, sewage, groundwater inflow and atmospheric pollution contribute to the bloom growth of cyanobacteria.
Lisa Genasci of the Social Ventures in Asia blog writes:
The findings, published in the journal Marine Drugs, followed the testing of seven species of shark: blacknose, blacktip, bonnethead, bull, great hammerhead, lemon, and nurse sharks for β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA. Samples were collected as fin clips from live shark in South Florida waters.
The study’s co-author, Professor Deborah Mash, director of the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, was part of a 2009 study that showed patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS had unusually high levels of BMAA in their brains of up to 256 ng/mg. By contrast, healthy people, the study showed, had no BMAA, or only trace quantities of the toxin in their bodies.
In this latest study, the team found high BMAA levels of between 144 and 1836 ng/mg in shark fins.
The study admits that more research is needed to confirm whether sharks living in areas besides South Florida’s coastal waters also contain high levels of BMAA. But somewhat unnervingly, sharks living in areas without cyanobacteria blooms were also found to contain high levels of BMAA:
High concentrations of BMAA were, however, detected in the fins of some sharks collected in areas with no active cyanobacteria blooms. Sharks are highly migratory, making it likely that they pass in and out of areas where cyanoblooms may have occurred over time, the study says.
The latest study from the University of Miami should come as welcome news to anti-shark finning advocates like Yao Ming, Richard Branson and Gordon Ramsay, who’ve been buoyed by recent news of the Peninsula Hotels striking shark’s fin from their menu, as well as all of Taiwan deciding to ban shark’s fin for 2012.
Meanwhile, shark’s fin advocates will likely continue to stand firm, having declared that shark-finning has to go on because sharks will kill humans if they aren’t killed first, as well as claiming the shark’s fin issue is a matter of cultural discrimination.