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DNA test helps officials spot dodgy shark shipments

21 / 12 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

A multi-national research team has developed a rapid DNA identification method to help customs inspectors detect illegally traded wildlife products, beginning with sharks. The DNA testing protocol, published last month, detects nine of 12 commonly traded shark species quickly enough to enable officials to determine whether a shipment requires further inspection. A scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini) eyes a diver near Jarvis Island in the Pacific. These sharks have small mouths and sensing organs in their broad heads to find stingrays and other prey buried in the sand. They are considered endangered and are one of 12 shark species listed on CITES’ Appendix II, which restricts trade in their meat, oil, and fins. The researchers focused on sharks because they are threatened by illegal killing and trafficking, but implementing trade laws on the ground has challenged customs officials. The 12 species are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning trade in products from these species requires certification that specimens were caught legally and that trade does not harm the survival of the species. The 12 species, which include hammerhead, thresher, porbeagle, and great white sharks, are threatened in large part by the killing of massive numbers of them mainly for their fins, but also for meat and other products. For these and other species, limiting trade to levels lower than birth/survival rates enables populations to persist and is therefore a priority for shark conservation. The researchers, from Florida International University, Stony Brook University, and…

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