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Tech-Driven Approaches to Fisheries Monitoring, Security and Sustainability

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The global demand for seafood continues to surge, necessitating effective and affordable strategies for monitoring catches to ensure long-term sustainability. Recent findings from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted that in 2020, wild capture fisheries production reached a staggering 90.3 million tonnes, valued at US$ 141 billion. Despite these numbers, critical gaps persist in understanding the specific species and quantities being captured.

Dr Madeline Green, from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), emphasises the necessity for comprehensive data regarding the species composition in catches. Traditionally, monitoring methods have been arduous and time-intensive, relying on logbooks, onboard observers, patrol vessels, and tagging programmes.

However, a breakthrough has emerged in the form of a novel, cost-effective technique pioneered by Dr Green. This innovative method leverages DNA sequencing, akin to forensic crime-solving methods, to identify fish species from samples extracted from brine water in fishing vessels’ holding tanks or freezers.

Dr Green’s team successfully devised specialised techniques to extract and identify DNA traces from brine water, accurately identifying nearly all but the rarest species present in the holding tanks. Thanks to support from Oceankind, these techniques are undergoing refinement and scaling up to broaden their application.

The ultimate objective is to implement this molecular monitoring technology across entire fisheries, significantly enhancing data collection to understand catch compositions, including illegal catches. Dr Green stresses the pivotal role of this technology in elucidating the impact of fisheries on ecosystems, citing firsthand experiences from international fisheries meetings where data scarcity hindered informed decision-making.

Highlighting a pressing concern, Dr Green notes the lack of information about the sharks caught in the Indian Ocean Tuna Fishery, with half of the bycatch shark species unidentified. This knowledge gap poses challenges in assessing the conservation status of these species.

While future adaptations of this technique may include assessing catch quantities, Dr Green’s primary focus remains on species identification. Resolving these identifications will significantly enhance ecosystem-based management practices and facilitate informed decision-making by providing crucial data on fishery impacts.

Crucially, these low-tech, cost-effective methods offer a promising solution, especially for countries with limited resources for high-tech monitoring. Dr Green envisions that their findings will serve as more than just data; they will be instrumental for policymakers and fisheries managers in shaping sustainable fisheries for the future.

Dr Green expresses optimism in the transformative potential of their work, underscoring its role in shaping policies and managing fish populations to ensure ecological health and sustainable fisheries.

Aligned with Dr. Green’s research, ANSTO spearheaded an enlightening virtual workshop as part of the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) initiative. Continuing the momentum in bolstering food security in the Asia-Pacific, ANSTO facilitated an illuminating online workshop under the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA) project.

This endeavour focused on combatting food fraud using nuclear technology (CFF), aiming to safeguard the region’s food supply chains from fraudulent activities. This platform targets the prevention of fraud across eight Pacific member states, envisioning a strengthened food supply chain.

The workshop convened representatives from FNCA member states, fostering collaborative efforts and knowledge sharing. At the heart of the project lies the ambition to create a robust food-provenance technology platform, fortified by interconnected data systems.

Beyond merely addressing fraud concerns, the project holds broader implications, emphasising the nurturing of scientific expertise and capabilities within participating nations. Specifically, it aims to harness nuclear analysis techniques to tackle the complexities of food traceability in international trade.

This innovative approach stands as a testament to the ongoing advancements in leveraging cutting-edge technology, as seen in Dr Green’s pioneering work with DNA sequencing for fisheries monitoring. Both initiatives underscore the crucial role of technology in ensuring sustainability and security across critical sectors.


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