It has not previously been possible to prove the exact origin of any particular fish
Powerful and versatile new genetic tools that will assist in safeguarding both European fish stocks and European consumers is reported in Nature Communications. The paper reports on the first system proven to identify populations of fish species to a forensic level of validation.
With up to 25% of fish catches being caught illegally across the world, and with an estimated cost to Europe of up to €10 billion by 2020, the EU were eager to address the problems facing the European fishing industry. One major initiative was to fund the EU project behind the latest development: a three year, four million Euro pan-European project, called “FishPopTrace” led by Bangor University, UK.
The EU has already introduced a law requiring any fish sold in the EU to be identified with the species and region of origin on the label from 2011. The same regulation explicitly requires EU Member States to undertake pilot studies of novel traceability tools by 2013 to test the authenticity of this labelling. Furthermore, awareness and take up of the product is already in hand. In the UK, DEFRA is funding a pilot project to develop the tools to help UK fishing industry to collect, manage and store the samples to forensic standards.
Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon said: “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. I’m delighted to see a project as innovative and revolutionary as FishPopTrace come to fruition. Protecting our seas and our honest fishermen from this abuse would be a remarkable achievement and I am confident that this technology will prove highly valuable in efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries globally.”
Prof Gary Carvalho who headed the FishPopTrace EU consortium behind the new validation tools explains:
“A major existing problem is that it has not previously been possible to prove the exact origin of any particular fish, and in some circumstances, particularly with processed or cooked fish, it can be quite difficult even to identify the species, let alone its source of origin.