By Jennifer Viegas
Largetooth sawfish, which resemble their shark relatives, are critically endangered, and yet they are routinely being killed and sold in fish markets, according to new research.
The study, accepted for publication in the journal Food Control, reports that the extremely toothy fish, with saw snouts, wind up skinned, filleted and displayed in markets. Consumers have no idea what they’re buying.
"The proper identification of fish products, like fillets, is a worldwide concern, and several studies have focused on unreported or misidentified fishing issues," wrote co-author Iracilda Sampaio of the Universidade Federal do Pará and colleagues, after identifying some "fresh or salted fillets" in markets as being flesh from largetooth sawfish.
The researchers used DNA analysis to identify the mystery fish.
First, Sampaio and her team sequenced two genes from largetooth sawfish. They then performed genetic analysis of 44 samples of fish sold at markets in northern Brazil. The samples were sold under the generic label of “shark.” Twenty-three out of the 44 samples had genes that matched those of largetooth sawfish.
Fishing and trade of this species have been illegal for some time in Brazil, as well as in the United States and certain other countries. Nevertheless, as Sampaio pointed out, they are often "caught as bycatch in fisheries targeting commercially important species." These include swordfish, catfish, tuna and other fish. More....