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Fish Forensics Gets an Upgrade

from ScienceNOW Daily News

It's no wonder that fish stocks around the world are plummeting. Up to 25% of the global catch comes from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Now, science has stepped in to offer a new method to identify contraband fish. A €4 million pan-European project, launched in 2008 and called FishPopTrace, has devised a much-anticipated way to differentiate marine populations of the same species with up to 100% accuracy.

Regulatory agencies like those in the European Union are trying to crack down on the illegal fish trade, but the task is not easy. How does a manager tell the difference between, for example, an illegally harvested Northeast Arctic cod and a perfectly legal Eastern Baltic cod? They belong to the same species but come from very different populations.

The new approach relies on genetic variants called single-nucleotide polymorphisms. SNPs occur when tiny segments of DNA differ between populations. For example, the Northeast Arctic cod may have a C nucleotide in the middle of a gene, whereas the Eastern Baltic cod may instead have a T in the same position.

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