Fraud is one of the biggest issues in seafood industry. It is thought that up to one quarter of the seafood on the market is not labeled with the correct species ID and behind this also lies the depletion of marine populations, threats to food security and up to $23 billion in economic losses globally each year.
DNA and genomics have great potential to improve seafood traceability and therefore protect consumers. Currently, DNA barcoding, the term given to species identification by use of DNA technology is carried out by sequencing a section of the mitochondrial DNA to identify the species and in many cases these data can be used to trace the sample back to the population of origin.
Mislabeling usually involves substitution of a cheaper fish with a more expensive one (e.g. pollack for cod, pollack for langoustines in “scampi” or rainbow trout for sea trout).
One final possibility that genetic analysis offers the chance to identify traces of DNA from illegally caught fish on the decks or freezers of fishing boat or even after the fish have been offloaded. This environmental DNA analysis allows us to identify fish species from the biological material left behind from the shedding of scales or other tissues.
Genetic analysis of fish samples is however not enough to show that a fish was caught illegally but it will be an important tool in improving consumer confidence in the identity of the fish we eat, with numerous economic and environmental impacts arising therefrom.
Dr. Maria Gonzalez
At chXout we carry DNA Barcoding for animal, plant and fungi species identification for quantitation services (for example, in meat and fish products).