Scientists develop Atlantic fish DNA database with possible conservation and seafood fraud implications

February 7, 2013
Paul Bentzen assists a student with research in Dal's Marine Gene Probe Lab.

Dal's Paul Bentzen and colleagues have developed a publically available DNA database to identify all fish commonly encountered in the ocean off Atlantic Canada. This database could impact ocean conservation, species tracking and seafood fraud.

Bentzen and colleagues used a cataloguing process called "". Canada has led the world in this area. Dr. Bentzen's work is part of a larger effort to catalogue all species. Anyone can access the database at The database could help with species tracking and conservation, as it will make illegally landed fish easier to identify. Research suggests that certain people have, and continue to, illegally land and keep high-value species.

In addition, the catalogue could help combat seafood fraud by making identifying fraud more accessible. Currently, consumers are not always receiving what they order from a menu or read on a food label. Research shows that low-value species are sometimes substituted for high-value ones.

According to Paul Bentzen, Professor in the Department of Biology, "With growing pressures from fisheries, climate change and invasive species, it is more important than ever to monitor and understand biodiversity in the sea, and how it is changing. Our database provides a new tool for species identification that will help us monitor biodiversity. The availability of ever easier to use DNA sequencing technology can make almost anyone 'expert' at identifying species - and all it takes is a scrap of tissue."

He continued, "There can be many steps in the supply chain between when the fish leaves the water and when it appears on a plate. With many desirable species becoming ever more scarce and expensive, there will always be temptation to substitute a cheaper fish (or an illegally harvested one) for a legal, more expensive one. We know it happens. never lie, unlike some seafood labels and . With the , it will be easier to detect seafood fraud when it happens."

Explore further: DNA barcoding reveals mislabeled cod and haddock in Dublin

More information: Barcode of Life Database:

Related Stories

DNA barcoding reveals mislabeled cod and haddock in Dublin

April 22, 2010

Ecological scientists in Ireland recently used DNA barcoding to identify species of fish labeled as either "cod" or "haddock" in fish and chip shops, fresh fish counters and supermarkets in 10 postal districts in Dublin. ...

'Barcoding blitz' on Australian moths and butterflies

May 5, 2011

In just 10 weeks a team of Canadian researchers has succeeded in 'barcoding' 28,000 moth and butterfly specimens – or about 65 per cent of Australia’s 10,000 known species – held at CSIRO's Australian National ...

Eco-labeled seafood is not always what it seems

August 22, 2011

When you buy what looks to be a nice piece of certified sustainable fish at the supermarket, you'd like to think that's exactly what you're getting. Unfortunately, things aren't always what they seem, according to researchers ...

Restaurants plan DNA-certified premium seafood

November 27, 2011

(AP) -- Restaurants around the world will soon use new DNA technology to assure patrons they are being served the genuine fish fillet or caviar they ordered, rather than inferior substitutes, an expert in genetic identification ...

In cod we trust: DNA test combats fisheries fraud

May 22, 2012

Scientists on Tuesday said they had devised a DNA test to pinpoint the geographical origins of commercial seafish, in a breakthrough against illegal trawling that threatens fish stocks worldwide.

Study finds healthy seafood comes from sustainable fish

August 2, 2012

When ordering seafood, the options are many and so are some of the things you might consider in what you order. Is your fish healthy? Is it safe? Is it endangered? While there are many services and rankings offered to help ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.