DNA barcodes for sustainable seafood consumption

dna_barcode1. Fisheries are of primary importance for the livelihood and food security of 200 million people, particularly in the developing world, furthermore, one of five people on this planet depends on fish as the primary source of protein(UN) . The increasing demand for fish and fish products is leading to a rapid growth in market prices. Therefore, fisheries investments have become more attractive, creating even greater barriers for the protection of marine biodiversity due to overfishing. The magnitude of the problem of overfishing is often overlooked. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. The dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques worldwide destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems.

2.Based on the DNA sequence of a particular gene it is possible to determine which species the sample belongs to, by comparing the DNA sequence to all of the fish DNA sequences in the universal database GenBank. Less than 1 milligram of fish meat is required to perform this analysis. (FishDNAID)

So far, the publicly-accessible database contains over 1,000 DNA sequences on it until now but planning on adding new sequences on a rolling basis. DNA barcoding provides an additional advantage because DNA among similar species bears a similar resemblance, researchers can usually narrow down a mystery fish. Finally bringing transparency to the seafood supply chain. (Agfunder)

This technology is expected to become highly scalable as it matures,  decreasing the cost, making it more attractive to invest in and easier to use in the field. Soon, fish retailers could rely on a spin-off of the database to verify each import shipment as it crosses their docks, alerting the FDA and refusing the admission into the country, this is expected to reduce the number of illegal fished endangered species.

3.- Although this technology could be developed by a private company, the final adoption of the enforcement authorities it’s crucial. The Fish SCALE (Seafood Compliance and Labeling Enforcement) project at the FDA has been able to accurately classify countless types of edible — and perhaps, more importantly, inedible — types of sea fare based on their DNA, this is a perfect example of how the public sector is developing its own technology innovation programs within the agencies. (Agfunder)

4.-  Although there has been a wave of innovative solution regarding conservation of the marine ecosystem, most of them narrow down to offer two solutions: Monitoring and traceability. For the former, it is important to have strong law enforcement authorities, for the latter it is important to have educated markets. To deploy this technology in the developing world it will be crucial to work hand in hand with the law enforcement authorities as well as to raise awareness among fish retailers.



image source: http://earthsky.org/human-world/david-schindel-on-dna-barcodes-for-seafood


2 thoughts on “DNA barcodes for sustainable seafood consumption

  1. To: DNA Barcodes for Sustainable Seafood Production-

    This seems like a promising tool to help government agencies in preventing fraudulent sales of illegal or mislabeled fish species. I was trying to figure out FishDNAID’s current business model. Their website offers services for a fee but they were not offering those services at all times. Also I wasn’t sure if they were affiliated with the Florida State University or if they were a private organization.
    I think that exploring for a viable business model that could provide a stable revenue stream is certainly worth the effort.

    oaf2118 / Fall 2017


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