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Waiter, there's a shark in my soup

NEW YORK (July 31, 2003) The great white shark, one of the world's most feared predators, is slowly being fished out of existence by humans, who sell its teeth and jaws for trophies and even eat its fins in shark fin soup. Today however, great whites received some good news when scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) of Nova Southeastern University, Florida revealed a new genetic test that may lead to increased protection for these misunderstood fish.

Using DNA technology similar to the type found in crime labs, the scientists say that they now have the capability to accurately distinguish great white sharks from other species, even when only dried fins or meat are available. The shark fin trade in particular has put sharks under increased fishing pressure, depleting populations of many species. The scientists' study is published in the August issue of the journal Conservation Genetics.

"Ironically, humans are hunting great white sharks out of existence--not the other way around," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, director of Ocean Strategy for WCS, and one of the study's co-authors. "This new test will give conservationists and fisheries managers the 'teeth' to better regulate and ultimately protect great whites."

"This forensic test was developed to be highly streamlined and simple to use, while still being very accurate in its ability to identify white shark body parts on a global scale," said Dr. Mahmood Shivji, director of GHRI and the genetics research team. "In addition to its application to white sharks, I anticipate this test may prove useful as a model for the design of forensic tests for wildlife in general."

Last year, both basking sharks and whale sharks were placed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a treaty that regulates global trade in threatened and endangered wildlife. During the 2000 CITES m
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
31-Jul-2003


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