'Lab-in-the-Field: Reducing Illegal Trade of Shark and Ray Products in Indonesia' by Andhika Prasetyo
The need to balance shark and ray conservation and the socio-economic objectives of their fisheries requires careful monitoring. This is a significant challenge for countries like Indonesia, which has the largest shark and ray landings in the world. Monitoring the shark and ray trade is particularly difficult due to the processing of shark and ray products, which often end up lacking features which identify the species. Our overall goal was to investigate the use of portable DNA-based tools for identifying species used in the shark and ray trade. Specimens collected at various sites around the Island of Java and 22 species (a total of 154 samples) were selected. The aim was to test and validate this rapid and portable molecular identification tool to reliably identify and distinguish individual species. This was based on an innovative real-time PCR protocol which generates two unique curves per specimen. Those species-specific signatures were then plugged into a machine learning algorithm for autonomous species identification. We were able to successfully identify CITES-listed shark species from fresh specimens and processed derivative products. As part of this project we will devise a procedure that could become a reliable field tool for species authentication purposes for live monitoring in the shark and ray trade.