Researchers at Bangor University in the UK have proven new techniques for identifying illegal fishing or misrepresentation of sustainably sourced fish. The techniques can even identify the species after cooking, which will help deter mislabeling of fish.
25% of Fish Illegally CaughtIt is estimated that up to 25% of the worldwide fish catch stems from illegal fishing. The scale and costs of the problem incited the European Union to fund FishPopTrace, a project which supports development of advanced technologies for monitoring, control, and surveillance of the fisheries sector. The UK Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon puts it bluntly:
Illegal fishing is not just theft from responsible fishermen and fishing communities it has a devastating impact on the fish in our seas and oceans.
Revolutionizing the Fight Against Illegal FishingThe new technique relies on gene-associated markers to determine the population of origin of fish. The paper Gene-associated markers provide tools for tackling illegal fishing and false eco-certification, published with open access in Nature Communications, describes how assays can be developed and validated.
The effectiveness of the method has been tested against four threatened fish species: Atlantic Cod, Atlantic Herring, Common Sole, and European Hake. The ability to do random testing can also support independent certifications that fish originate from sustainable fisheries -- protecting consumers from scams as well as fish populations.
The new DNA evidence is expected to play an important role in bringing more cases to the courts, since the forensic evidence improves the chances of enforcing laws and applying penalties against those who engage in illegal or unreported fishing activities.