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Shark Fin Genetic Analysis: Identification of Species in California Markets

  • Author(s): Cano-Stocco, Dominique
  • et al.
Abstract

Legislators and marine conservationists in California are considering the best way to protect sharks. Assembly Bill 376 proposes a ban on the possession, trade, and consumption of fins in the state. Early efforts to quantify the environmental or economic impact of the shark fin trade in California were hampered by a lack of fin specific or species specific data. In order to address this lack of data and to provide a clearer picture of California’s role in the shark fin trade, I conducted DNA analysis on a small sample of shark fins purchased in California markets. This Capstone project is possible because molecular genetic techniques now have broad utility beyond the traditional medical research realm. Genetic analysis is being applied to modern ecology and to identify marketed commodities, such as endangered species. Though the sample size was small, 6 shark species were identified: smoothhound, smooth hammerhead, tiger, smalltail, silky, pelagic thresher. There were 12 unidentified shark fins, for which new samples will be obtained for further testing, in hopes of uncovering additional species.

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