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DNA barcoding of traded shark fins, meat and mobulid gill plates in Singapore uncovers numerous threatened species

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The shark and ray (Elasmobranchii) trade is a commercially valuable industry that has negative consequences for wild populations. An estimated 100 million sharks are caught each year to supply the demand for cultural cuisines, traditions and practices, including shark fin soup and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Despite the establishment of frameworks and regulations by international trade and conservation bodies as well as national legislations, elasmobranch populations continue to decline. While their conservation becomes an ever more pressing concern, a major obstacle that hampers regulation is the mislabelling and/or misidentification of dried products or carcasses that have had fins removed. Here we use DNA barcoding to identify the species of origin for a variety of shark and ray products readily available to consumers in Singapore, a major importer of these goods. We amplified a fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I gene from shark fin, cartilage and meat, as well as ray gill plates and meat for DNA sequencing. Our analysis of 207 DNA barcodes yielded 28 positively identified elasmobranch species, eight of which are listed under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and 12 are listed as Endangered or Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. This information will be useful to regulatory bodies in controlling trade and establishing new or revisiting previous conservation status listings.

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Funding was generously provided by the Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 1 (R-154-000-A63-114) and the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore under its Marine Science R&D Programme (MSRDP-P03). Financial support from the Wildlife Conservation Society is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Benjamin J. Wainwright.

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Wainwright, B.J., Ip, Y.C.A., Neo, M.L. et al. DNA barcoding of traded shark fins, meat and mobulid gill plates in Singapore uncovers numerous threatened species. Conserv Genet 19, 1393–1399 (2018).

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