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2009 August 24

Greenland explores shark-based biofuels

David Landes
Researchers in Greenland are looking into whether or not one of the world’s largest species of sharks could be a source of biofuel for the native Inuit population.

The Greenland shark causes problems for fishermen, with thousands of them dying in nets off of Greenland every year, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reports.

And while the shark’s oily meat is toxic to humans, researchers at Greenland’s Arctic Technology Centre (ARTEK) believe it could be a useful source of biogas.

Normally fishermen simply throw the shark carcasses back into the sea, but according to Marianne Willemoes Joergensen of ARTEK's branch at the Technical University of Denmark, meat from the sharks, which can be up to seven metres long and weigh up to a tonne, could "serve as biomass for biofuel production."

 "I think this is an alternative where we can use the thousands of tonnes of leftovers of products from the sea, including those of the numerous sharks," she told the newspaper.

Willemoes Joergensen estimates that biofuels derived from sharks and other sea products could provide up to 13 percent of the energy used by the 2,450 residents of in the Inuit village of Uummannaq, site of the pilot project.

The Greenland shark often accounts for more than half of the waste disposed of by the Uummannaq’s fishermen.

While the fishing industry claims the shark is abundant, experts from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Danish branch of the Worldwide Fund for Nature disagree.

"We know very little about the Greenland shark, which lives in a limited geographic zone, the Arctic," Anne-Marie Bjerg, a WWF specialist on ocean mammals, told the newspaper, adding that shark-based biofuel project "is not a good idea, not at all."

Read the full article here.