Tracking the Origin of Shark Fins Using DNA Zip Coding

Tracking the Origin of Shark Fins Using DNA Zip Coding

shark-finsShark 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.

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