Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate Patterns of Species Utilisation in UK Shark Products

Published on
31. January 2019

Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate Patterns of Species Utilisation in UK Shark Products Reveals Threatened Species on Sale

Catherine A. D. Hobbs, Robert W. A. Potts, Matthew Bjerregaard Walsh, Jane Usher, Andrew M. Griffiths


Many shark populations are in decline, primarily due to overexploitation. In response, conservation measures have been applied at differing scales, often severely restricting sales of declining species. Therefore, DNA barcoding was used to investigate sales of shark products in fishmongers and fish and chip takeaways in England. The majority of samples were identified as Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), which is critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic and landings have been prohibited (although there is evidence of importation of this species). Significant differences in the species sold between retailer types were also identified, suggesting differing supply chains. The results underline issues surrounding the use of ‘umbrella’ sales terms where many species are labelled with the same designation. This denies consumer choice as purchasers cannot easily avoid declining species or those associated with high levels of toxicants. For the first time in Europe, minibarcodes are also used to identify species from dried shark fins. Despite a small sample size, analysis of UK wholesaler fins identified threatened sharks, including the endangered and CITES listed Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini). This highlights the global nature of the damaging trade in endangered shark species, in which Europe and the UK have a continuing role.

Scientific Reports, (2019) 9:1028, DOI 10.1038/s41598-018-38270-3


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