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Genetics for traceability in the fisheries sector

The JRC conducts research in forensic genetics, genomics and chemistry for fish traceability, and promotes the awareness of these technologies.

Low-cost catfish fillets sold as expensive sole fillets or cod caught in the North Sea but declared as originating from the Baltic Sea are both examples of types of fraud in the fisheries sector. Molecular methods, such as those based on DNA-technology, make it possible to identify species even in processed products. The JRC conducts research in forensic genetics, genomics and chemistry, and promotes the awareness of these technologies.

Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing and fraud along the fish supply chain is unanimously recognised as a serious impediment to sustainable fisheries at the EU and global levels. The JRC provides scientific or technological support to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) for implementing the IUU Regulation. The JRC investigates the use of molecular technologies in the fight against IUU fishing, focusing in particular on catch identification, fraud throughout the fish product supply chain, and traceability (“From Ocean to Fork”). Molecular technologies are a powerful tool for independent control and can assist verification procedures, especially during the so-called "physical examination" of a shipment, product, container, storage place, etc. DNA-based techniques which can accurately identify the species and geographical origin of a fish, can also be extended to the growing aquaculture industry by identifying whether a fish is wild or farmed.

Through extensive contacts and undertaking research in consortia, the JRC ensures that results of collaborative projects (e.g. the projects FP5: FishTrace, SturSNiP, FP7: FishPopTrace, AquaGen, AquaTrace, and MedBlueSGen) are integrated into the continuously emerging area of DNA-based traceability.

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IUU fishing and traceability

A shoal of fish swimming underwater.
© Photographer/Credit: E.Canuti

A shoal of fish swimming underwater.