Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Forensic Help for Shark Conservation

AFP today reports that a group of scientists working in Hong Kong have been using DNA testing to try to trace the source of a batch of shark fins purchased amongst the city's notorious shark fin trading markets. The technique has been used previously to trace the origin of fish, turtles and marine mammals but this is the first time it has been used on sharks. The US scientists managed to trace 21 percent of their purchase to endangered scalloped hammerhead stock from the western Atlantic (Full article here).

This is great news for the shark conservation movement as it can indicate where to concentrate efforts or to step up action. However, some governments might be ahead of the game. The scientist's work is hoped to strengthen efforts at next year's CITES meeting in Qatar to list more shark species in appendix II, so bringing about protection via increased monitoring and licensing for international trade. However, such moves might not work so effectively in Eucador where there is already a licensing and catch monitoring system in what is arguably one of the most productive shark fishing nations in the world. Perhaps if Hong Kong trade percentages can be directly attributed to Ecuador will they be shamed into not just monitoring the catches but actually begin to restrict the high number of sharks landed on their shores.
On an inspirational note, there is a great post on a BBC site all about our wards, the Giant Manta Ray (Manta birostris). I guess following Andrea Marshall's program on her work with mantas in Mozambique, this post has links to some great manta footage and also has some interesting manta facts and some opinion on species variant.

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