Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shark fins in BC

Shark finning continues to be a hot topic in Canada.

Just last week a bylaw banning the possession, sale and consumption of shark fins in Toronto had been  struck down by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice because it was supposedly outside the powers of the city.

Graphic by Vancouver Animal Defense League
Yesterday night a news report from Vancouver shows that fins of threatened and endangered shark species are being sold in Vancouver. Dried fins were purchased at local shops earlier this summer, some by an undercover reporter working for CTV and others by the Vancouver Animal Defense League, and sent to me here in Guelph for DNA Barcoding.

I had been in touch with the Vancouver Animal Defense League for a while already as a result of a blog post back in August in which I reported about efforts to ban shark fins from Canadian cites and provinces. What was lacking in all discussions and news releases was a clearer picture of what species are actually sold in Canadian shops. Earlier investigations in US restaurants had given us an idea but the actual extend was unknown. When I received the fins I was pretty sure that some of them were from endangered or at least threatened species according to the IUCN Red List but I was very surprised to find out that 76% of all samples sequenced fell into those categories. This was far worse than I thought and demonstrates how dramatic the situation is. 

If you want to get an impression of the dimension of the problem just go in one of the shops that sell fins as food or health products (if you happen to live close by). Have a look at the shelf's that are jam packed with dried fins and imagine that 3/4 of them are likely from species that are at least threatened. Now think of how many such shops there are.

Yesterday our results officially went public. I know that advocates of a province-wide ban of shark fin products in British Columbia are very positive as our findings will help them to substantiate their claims . 

Still - Very bad news for the sharks.

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