Friday, 14 February 2014
Toronto (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
It is well recognised that fisheries resources are a major contributor to human well-being across the globe, providing a range of social and economic benefits. Moreover, exploited species typically comprise important components of aquatic ecosystems across trophic levels, and thus underpin aspects of ecosystem diversity and function. In addition to the challenges associated with generating the science of sustainability, is the significant issue of implementing and enforcing a legislative framework that maximises yield within conservation limits. Many marine fisheries are essentially trans-boundary, straddling numerous nations where biological units rarely correspond to management units. Correspondingly, there exists a mosaic of stocks differentiated to varying degrees, often exhibiting contrasting trajectories of response to harvesting and ensuing resilience to environmental change. While socio-economic and political constraints confound attempts to harmonise management of such resources, there is additionally the need to develop rigorous enforcement of policy. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing represents the single largest continuing threat to fisheries sustainability in our oceans, with an estimated 25% of all landings globally falling under the IUU banner. While several monitoring, control and surveillance methods are available, collectively they fail to detect or deter most infringements. New tools and their wide-scale deployment are therefore required. Genetics and genomics provide not only a wealth of potential tools that can determine traceability at species and population or regional levels, they also importantly have characteristics that are amenable to forensic validation. Detection is only one part of the enforcement process: additionally, sound, robust evidence must be gathered to support prosecutions in a court of law. Here, I will consider criteria needed for forensic validation of tools, akin to those used in human forensics, together with an outline of recent tools available and their application. While various illustrative examples will be used to demonstrate utility of fisheries forensics using DNA-based tools, there will be a particular focus on outputs from a recent European consortium, FishPopTrace, the most comprehensive to date. Remaining challenges and opportunities will be reviewed within the context of IUU and eco-certification of fish and fisheries products.