DNA barcoding to help in conservation of sharks and rays in Thai waters
Researchers from the Burapha University and Thailand’s Fisheries Department have been formulating a national action plan to conserve and manage shark and ray species in Thai waters, in line with international standards, to increase the body of knowledge in biology and ecology and to monitor the utilisation of sharks and rays.
Dr. Wiparat Dee-ong, executive director of the National Research Council of Thailand, said that the aim of the plan is to build a database of shark and ray species in Thai waters using a DNA barcoding technique, to identify ray or shark species from dried fins, canned meat or food made of various parts of sharks or rays.
There are 87 shark and 99 ray species in Thai waters, but most are under threat from overfishing.
Associate Professor Wansuk Senanan, of the Department of Aquatic Science of the Faculty of Science at Burapha University said experts from the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) have assessed that 66 of 87 shark species and 71 of 99 ray species in Thailand are at risk of becoming extinct.
He said that information from DNA barcoding has been very useful in assessing the risk status of shark and ray species and their populations, which will help in the management of the trading in ray and shark fins.
Scientists worldwide are struggling with a lack of basic information for many shark and ray species. One factor hampering the data collection is inaccurate identification of many chondrichthyan species and their body parts.
Morphologically similar species and specimens, which are poorly preserved or have had key diagnostic features removed, can be difficult to identify. DNA barcoding has come into play as a method to identify shark species from dried fins or body parts confiscated from vessels fishing illegally.