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EC Tackles Fish Fraud

by the Fish Site Editor
31 May 2011, at 1:00am

EU - A recent report from the European Commission's (EC) Joint Research Centre (JRC) has highlighted how a new molecular technology can help tackle fish fraud by identifying fish type and source.

Fishing fraud has become a great issue globally. The report, titled "Deterring illegal activities in the fisheries sector", outlines the two main types of fraudulent activities; labelling fish and fish products with a false species name and declaring false geographic origins.

The report describes how molecular methods, such as those based on DNA-technology, make it possible to identify species even in processed or canned products, without the need for expert knowledge.

Presenting the report at the "Slow Fish" event in Genoa, EC for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said, "Illegal fishing is said to be worth €10 billion per year worldwide. It is a criminal activity which negatively affects the global economy, disrupts marine ecosystems, and damages fisheries communities and consumers. Without respect for the rules in EU waters and beyond, there can be no sustainable fisheries. Today marks a first step into a new era, the challenge now will be transferring this new science into day-to-day practice across Europe."

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science and the Commissioner with lead responsibility for the JRC said, "This crucial report by the Commission's in-house scientists at the JRC shows how the wider and more coordinated use of innovative molecular technologies can help foil fisheries fraud and make sure consumers get what they pay for and know what they are eating."

Molecular technologies are a powerful tool for independent control and can assist verification procedures, especially during the so-called "physical examination" of a consignment, product, container, storage place, etc.

The JRC report advocates a coherent and practical EU-wide approach towards making new molecular technologies available to European control and enforcement authorities.

It aims to promote an informed dialogue among the various stakeholders and proposes the following concrete measures:

  • stepping up dissemination of relevant information and advice to all stakeholders;
  • giving analytical laboratories in the Member States access to common repositories of reference data and other relevant knowledge for the analysis of fish and fish products. These repositories could be similar to the "fishtrace" database (www.fishtrace.org), hosted by the JRC;
  • a network of certified test laboratories to carry out analysis for control and enforcement purposes and to share harmonised and validated analytical protocols;
  • ensuring full training of inspectors and laboratory staff for proper sample handling and analysis

The JRC is currently assessing costs and benefits based on data from more than 100 reported cases to facilitate the practical implementation of the technologies concerned. The costs of many of these technologies, in particular for DNA analysis, have been falling sharply.

the Fish Site Editor