Endangered sharks found in fin probe

An investigation of dried shark fins being sold in Richmond and Vancouver has found 76 per cent are from species that are threatened or endangered, according to activists.

“We knew that there was endangered species for sale, but we didn’t think the results would be nearly this bad. We were shocked,” said Marley Daviduk of the Vancouver Animal Defense League.

The league partnered with CTV News to test the DNA of 105 shark fins to identify shark species. Three-quarters of the samples were purchased in No. 3 Road area shops earlier this year.

Shark fin soup—the primary use of fins—was not tested because dry samples were needed for DNA testing, said Daviduk.

A lab at the University of Guelph was able to secure DNA in 59 of the samples, of which 45 are listed as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Eight fins came from endangered hammerhead sharks.

Results would likely be the same nationwide, Daviduk noted, as the same distributors sell to stores and restaurants across Canada.

Although scientists consider many species of sharks endangered or threatened, they are legal to sell in Canada.

Only three sharks—listed by the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species—are restricted here, none of which were found in the investigation. Daviduk contends more sharks aren’t protected because countries profiting off the trade are blocking efforts.

“Just because they’re not protected doesn’t mean they’re not endangered,” she said.

The investigation comes at a time when cities across Canada are mulling or enacting shark fin bans. In Richmond, city hall is studying the issue.

Last week an Ontario court threw out a Toronto bylaw that banned the sale, possession and consumption of shark fins and shark-fin food products. Daviduk believes Toronto can win an appeal by removing the bylaw’s restriction on consumption. Meanwhile, she expects the DNA results will serve as a “game-changer” across Canada.

“The results are so shocking—so bad. We need to do absolutely everything possible, and very quickly,” she said. “Ideally it’ll be a federal ban, but if the federal government fails and the provincial government fails, we have to do something on the municipal level.”

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