New Field Test Could Help Foil Shark Smugglers

Researchers from Stony Brook University, Florida International University, and BLOOM Association in Hong Kong have developed what they call a “reliable, field-based, fast … and cost effective” protocol for detecting, in a single reaction, nine of the 12 commonly traded shark species listed for protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The protocol is relatively cheap (less than $1 per sample) and quick (less than four hours) and is capable of being performed on site, including at ports.

AWI was actively involved in the efforts to list the 12 shark species under CITES to regulate the growing international trade in their fins, meat, and other products (See AWI Quarterly, spring 2013 and fall 2016). Unfortunately for customs officials, readily identifying the illicit products has been difficult and costly. The researchers say that, while their test does not identify specific species, it does provide enough information to signal whether a sample merits more rigorous forensic analysis. The detection protocol has been successfully applied in practice in Hong Kong, one of the world’s busiest ports and a hotbed for the shark trade. Lead researcher Diego Cardeñosa has informed AWI that a similar protocol he helped develop can be used to identify highly processed shark products such as those in shark fin soup. This protocol uses a mini-barcode DNA analysis he claims is straightforward and reliable, making it a useful method for data collection and enforcement.

Read more articles about: