Gummy Shark is the primary species used for 'Flake' though it may also be Whiskery Shark, School Shark, Saw Shark, Elephant Fish, any of the Dogfish family or any one of a variety of other sharks and even rays
School Sharks are listed as 'Conservation Dependent' on the EPBC Act List of Threatened Species. Shark species are on Greenpeace Australia Pacific's Seafood Redlist. AMCS lists all Shark species as SAY NO. Forest & Bird (NZ) rank School Shark and 9 other species of shark as E (RED - AVOID) in their Best Fish Guide. Shark numbers are plummetting worldwide as a result of the cruel and wasteful fishery for their fins only. Sharks are long lived and have few young, making them susceptible to overfishing. Sharks are caught as bycatch of a range of other fisheries, as well as being heavily targeted themselves.
Many species of Shark and Dogfish are caught Australia-wide and when filleted are generally marketed as 'Flake', especially in VIC. 'Flake' has become ubiquitous with Australian fish and chips, and the dangerously unspecific term poses a threat to management of fisheries and the consumer's ability to make an informed choice about their purchase. When filleted and skinned, the fillets are white and boneless with firm flaky flesh, an indication of the reason for their ongoing popularity. Shark is also imported as frozen fillets from New Zealand, South Africa and Taiwan. Some shark species are also heavily exploited in wasteful fisheries targeting their fins only. Though the practice of 'finning' sharks and throwing live carcasses overboard has been banned in Australia, the fishing of sharks for their fins continues, fueled by demand for the Cantonese dish 'Shark-Fin Soup'. This is the cause of diminishing and endangered shark populations worldwide. Shark and Dogfish species are taken by targeted gillnet, trawl and line fisheries, and as bycatch of many Australian trawl fisheries.
WHITING species, including King George Whiting and others, are a much more sustainable option next time you’re ordering fish and chips. The flesh is firm and has a good flake but is sweet and delicate to taste. Reputable fish and chip shops should offer it, but if your local doesn’t, encourage them to get it in and offer it as a sustainable alternative to ‘Flake’.
FLATHEAD are also popular as a deep frying fish, especially smaller, moister specimens. Suitable to crumb or batter, but also excellent grilled or pan fried with only a squeeze of lemon and homemade tartare sauce to accompany.