Trial DNA testing of shark products imported into and exported from Australia to detect the presence of Great White Shark
Professor David A Briscoe, Dr Adam Stow, Ms Samantha Hussey
Final report to the Department of the Environment and Heritage, May 2005
About the report
The great white shark Carcharodon carcharias is currently threatened by global demand for, and trade in its products, and therefore there is a need to be able to accurately detect great white shark material in traded shark products. One tool that could facilitate this is a simple and reliable genetic test that allows great white shark material to be distinguished from other shark product. We have trialed the technique of Shivji (2001) for detecting the presence of great white shark DNA in samples of shark material. The technique is extremely sensitive. It will yield a positive result when the sample contains as little as one part in ten million (10-7) of great white shark material. As a result, a sample proving 'positive' through this technique could be claimed to be a consequence of 'innocent' contamination, rather than deliberate trade in this protected species.
We offer an alternative protocol. Samples should be initially tested using the Shivji (2001) protocol. Those not generating great white shark specific DNA products can be immediately cleared. Samples testing positive for great white shark at this stage should be re-amplified using universal primers, and the product subjected to automated DNA sequencing. This will unambiguously identify whether the sample is predominantly of great white shark origin, or contains only trace quantities of great white shark DNA.