Tracking the Origin of Shark Fins Using DNA Zip Coding

shark fins Shark fins soup is a delicacy that led the sharks all around the globe to drastically decrease in numbers. Until recently, it was a real challenge to determine the origin of the fins and whether they came from an endangered species. This was making it difficult to prove whether the fishing was legal or not. Now we can not only tell the difference between species, but we can also determine the area from where the fins were collected. Recent studies have shown that female sharks that are born in a specific area will return to give birth there, so the population’s DNA differs by its mother’s specifics. This also means that if the population of sharks declines too much or it’s wiped out in a specific region, then it won’t be replenish by the immigration of sharks from another area.
The sharks being a very important link of the aquatic food chain, the health of the oceans depends in keeping their numbers constant. When a shark population declines under 20% of what it was in the past, then it is considered to be on the endangered list. This happened to the dusky shark and the copper shark. The ability of determining a species and its origin only from the DNA samples will represent a great help for the regulation of the global trade. This way the fishing in the regions where the sharks are scarce can be controlled so the population would have time to regenerate. The process of recovering can be a long one, since these shark species mature in about 20 years and give birth once every three years. This means that, even if humans only need a few decades to drastically reduce the shark population, the time it will take for it to replenish is that of a few centuries.

The Dangers of Fishing Too Much

Fishing too muchWhen learning about the threats and dangers that natural habitats undergo due to the lack of conscious of human beings, we have seen how the larger animals are constantly suffering and even need to be protected. However when it comes to the marine life, all types of fish be it large or small, seem to be equally affected when their habitat is endangered.

New studies that have analyzed data from the last sixty years have found that members of the food chain have been affected almost equally. Prior to these studies the common assumption was that the larger fish were more at risk and therefore regulations were imposed that limited their fishing; it was thought that the smaller fish were tougher and would survive longer.

The investigation has found that even the smaller fish are susceptible to the changes and dangers of overfishing. The numbers indicated that the small fish stocks were doubly affected by overfishing as opposed to the larger fish.

The investigators made emphasis that the results of habitat risk and changes on the ocean were different than those on land. The reason being is that on land the animals have to fight for territory which a lot of times is very limited whereas in the ocean the territory is large enough for all the different species.

Other ecologists have proposed that the changes in the fish population can also be due to the changes in the climate and that perhaps the overfishing issues helped make the problems even worse. Also the study was performed on data obtained from a few developed countries and that the pattern could be different in other areas from developing countries.

It was stated that this should be taken into consideration because overfishing can impact negatively the natural habitats of different fish species.

Protecting the Marine World

The protection of the marine world has increased in the last few years. There has been an increase of areas that are considered protected reserves. Many of the conservationists have stated that they are happy with the fact that more reserves are being created because this is an expensive way of keeping up with them. However there has been some discontent with the fact that the areas that ought to be protected have not been chosen.

The creation of reserves started in 2006 in Hawaii and it was encouraged by then president of the United States George W. Bush. More reserves started to be created in the following years and some of them are completely protected whereas not even fishing is allowed. At least one percent of the total reserved area is considered to be large reserves which can measure up to 100,000 km2.

One of the goals that the Biological Diversity Convention has established is that by the year 2020 they want to have 10 percent of the total ocean area marked as protected. This of course is an extremely aggressive goal that will require a lot of work in order to complete it in the next nine years.

Earlier this month Australia announced that they want to protect a total area of 320,000 km2 in the coming months however it was been discussed that this plan doesn’t cover every type of habitat as it has been established.

One thing to consider is the high costs of maintaining these reserves. It is estimated that all the protected areas are costing around 2 billion dollars every year. On the other hand, environmentalists and conservationists keep on insisting and emphasizing that the reserves are truly efficient and that larger areas tend to be more successful than the small areas.