A New Fish DNA Test CouldHelp in the Fight Against Illegal Fishing

An international consortium has developed a DNA test that can trace the origin of fish and fish products, an innovation that could improve enforcement of marine fisheries laws and reduce overfishing worldwide. Using forensic technologies, the group FishPopTrace — a
coalition of researchers funded by the European Union — sequenced thousands of samples of four commercially important fish species, including Atlantic cod and common sole. After three years, they were able to detect hundreds of DNA variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic markers that identify subtle genetic differences between populations of the same species that existing DNA tests can not detect. Based on these findings, the group developed so-called “labs on a chip” that allow technicians to run DNA tests to trace the source of fish for $10 per sample. Studies say as much as 70 percent of the planet’s fish stocks are in decline as a result of overharvesting, and the UK estimates that unreported and unregulated fishing is worth $10 billion to $24 billion each year worldwide, roughly one-fourth of the total fishing industry.