The fins of threatened and endangered shark species are being sold in Vancouver, an exclusive CTV News investigation has revealed.

Dried fins were purchased at local shops earlier this year, some by an undercover reporter and others by the Animal Defense League, and sent to a lab at the University of Guelph for DNA testing.

Out of 59 samples tested, 76 per cent of the fins matched sharks that are threatened or endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s so-called red list.

Seven of the fins came from either scalloped or great hammerheads, species that Simon Fraser University shark expert Nicholas Dulvy said are in a “terrible position” globally.

“In parts of the world, their numbers have declined by up to 99 per cent,” Dulvy said.

Related: View the full test results here

Roughly 38 million sharks are killed each year, Dulvy added, and shark fin soup is the principal threat to the marine fishes' survival.

“We’ve effectively got a half-billion dollar industry that’s entirely unregulated that’s driving animals towards extinction,” he said.

Despite the fact that scientists consider many of the species being sold in Vancouver endangered, it’s still legal to sell them in Canada.

That’s because the government only restricts trade on sharks listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which currently lists only three shark species: great white, basking and whale sharks.

Still, Vancouver city councillor and vocal shark fin critic Kerry Jang said the findings should add fuel to the ongoing fight over the controversial delicacy.

“That’s worse than I thought,” Jang said. “That’s a bombshell. I think really now it’s going to change the entire face of the debate.”

For months, Jang has been pushing for a regional ban on the sale and trade of shark fins in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond.

The councillor said it doesn’t matter to him whether the shark fins being sold are on the IUCN red list or illegal under the CITES, which he believes is overdue for an update.

“It just has to be threatened, and we should not be using it or taking it out of the oceans this way.”

David Chung of the B.C. Asian Restaurant and Café Owners’ Association defended the sale of the fins, which he estimated make up roughly one per cent of his business, as a mainstay of Chinese traditional cuisine.

“Shark fin soup is the top in prestige, the number one dish on our menu. If you take it away, you are missing something,” he said.

As long as the fins being sold are legal in Canada, Chung said he will continue to serve them.

“What we are fighting for is the right to eat what we want to eat.”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee

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