Could fishermen hold the key to conservation of ocean species?

by Gareth Hollyman, Liverpool John Moores University

A lifeline for the world’s seas could lie at the bottom of a fisherman’s net, according to marine biologists.

Scientists say the slush that comes up with the catch holds the key to a new way of estimating fish stocks involving the fishermen themselves.

“Data is notoriously unreliable on which species of fish are landed, which are discarded, and how much fish is caught. It may be easier to just take a sample of the slush,” says Professor Stefano Mariani, a marine biologist at Liverpool John Moores University.

Advances in Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling now allow conservationists to forensically examine seawater for fish DNA – traces of skin, blood, faeces, eggs etc – and pinpoint the exact species those belong to. Indeed a recent LJMU study found the technique to be more accurate in identifying which species swim in which waters than traditional visual or catch-and-return surveys.

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