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Shark fins from endangered species sold for soup in Vancouver area, DNA tests show

More than four out of every five shark fins purchased in Vancouver and Richmond showed evidence of species at risk, the Vancouver Animal Defence League reported Thursday.

The league says it spent more than $2,000 to obtain 59 samples for DNA testing at the University of Guelph in Ontario as part of a campaign to end the trade in shark fins – an expensive status symbol served in soups in Chinese restaurants.

Of the 59 samples, 86 per cent contained DNA from shark species listed at risk by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Eight samples contained endangered scalloped or great hammerhead sharks.

Another 37 samples involved vulnerable species: shortfin and longfin mako; porbeagle; dusky, pelagic and common thresher; smoothtooth blacktip; and sicklefin lemon.

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Six samples involved near threatened blacktip, blue, spinner, and graceful sharks.

Eight samples came from sharks rated least concern: salmon, milk, sicklefin smooth-hound, and Caribbean sharpnose.

The Vancouver Sun and World Wildlife Fund obtained similar results in 2010 when they jointly submitted shark fins purchased in Richmond and Vancouver to the University of Guelph for DNA testing.

League spokeswoman Marley Daviduk said the DNA tests are important to show that even endangered species are finding their way into local shark-fin soup in the absence of federal regulations.

“We knew there were endangered species for sale,” she said. “When they get to Canada, they are just a dried fin. We don’t know where they came from or what species they are.”

Several B.C. municipalities, including North Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Port Moody have approved shark-fin bans.

Last month, the Ontario Supreme Court struck down a Toronto ban on the possession, sale or consumption of shark fin or shark fin food products within the city, concluding the city lacked jurisdiction.