NEW YORK (Aug. 23) The growing demand for shark fins the main ingredient in shark fin soup is driving many shark species toward extinction, in part because international regulators lack a cost-effective means of determining which species the fins are actually coming from until now, that is. Researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), working with partners from Nova Southeastern University, have developed a reliable genetic test that will identify shark species from their fins alone, taking a bite out of the massive uncertainties inherent in protecting these vulnerable marine predators. Their results are published in the recent issue of the journal Conservation Biology.
"We have developed an efficient way to achieve accurate and rapid identification of shark body parts, including dried fins," says Mahmood Shivji, one of the co-authors of the paper.
While commercial fishing fleets have targeted many shark species for some time, the recent popularity of shark fin soup in Asian markets is driving an upsurge in the number of sharks caught. To conserve onboard space for more valuable species and maximize profits from shark catches, many commercial fishing boats simply cut off a shark's fins a practice known as finning and toss the mortally wounded fish back into the ocean.
The new test uses a common genetic amplification method known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to identify six species of shark commonly caught in North Atlantic waters: blue, dusky, porbeagle, silky, and longfin and shortfin makos. These sharks are sought after in the global fin market, and are also frequently caught as bycatch in tuna and swordfish fisheries.
Using samples from 33 species of closely related sharks, researchers were able to identify the six target species with near 100 percent accuracy. The test proved effective for dried fins as well as fresh samples. Shivji and his colleagues can now identify up to 10Page: 1 2 Related biology news :1
Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society
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