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DNA barcoding helps identify endangered species from market specimens of sharks and rays

06 / 09 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

Markets around the world sell products made from the processed parts of wild animals and plants, which are sometimes illegal and mislabeled. A research team using DNA barcoding technology to identify shark fins and manta gills sold commercially found that a majority of samples they tested, from sellers in multiple countries, were from threatened species. Their findings show that DNA barcoding holds potential to help enforcement agencies identify illegal products that in hand cannot be distinguished from legal imports. The success of the method should also help researchers better determine population status of species of conservation concern. White shark and friends. Great white sharks are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning they will become endangered if circumstances threatening the species do not change. Photo credit: Terry Goss, CC 3.0 Populations of many shark and ray species have declined dramatically, shrinking by up to 85% in less than 10 years. Trade data from Asian markets suggest that 26–73 million sharks are caught each year for the fin trade alone. The high price of shark fin soup and wildlife products for Chinese medicine and huge demand for these among Chinese customers encourages fishers to target the fins as a luxury commodity. Fishing fleets from Mexico to Mozambique to Indonesia kill large numbers of sharks, slice off their fins, and toss the rest of each now-doomed animal back into the sea to save space on their vessels for more fins. Display of shark fin soup…

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