Reconstructing Fisheries Catch using eDNA

An infographic showing in pictures how eDNA is collected and then analysed.

Conceptual design describing the eDNA monitoring procedure designed by the CSIRO’s Monitoring, control and surveillance team. As a fishing vessel docks to offload products (a), a small water sample can be collected from on-board the vessel’s fish hold (b), the water sample is then sent to a laboratory for DNA extraction and sequencing (c), DNA sequences are then used for species identification and relative abundance estimates which can be provided in a report (d).

There are a wide range of reasons for wanting to reconstruct fisheries catches from fishery independent data. Logbook records may be unavailable or inaccurately report landed species and biomass. Vessel operators or crew may take unregulated or prohibited species, either for sale or for personal consumption. Policy makers during international conventions (CMS, CITES) may make significant binding decisions and treaties with incomplete data. Unfortunately, trained observers who collect crucial independent data onboard vessels cover only a small percentage of total fishing activity. This leaves a significant opportunity for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practises, the likes of which pose a risk for the management and protection of vulnerable species.

This project aims to establish a novel method for collecting eDNA onboard fishing vessels to be used as an alternative monitoring tool. The project will test if collecting a small volume of water or ice slurry from fish holds on-board fishing vessels can identify and reconstruct the species stored in the vessel. A secondary goal for the project is to test if eDNA can estimate the relative biomass of catch. The samples collected on-board vessels should theoretically represent the animals that have been in the hold since it was last emptied, therefore providing a time-integrated record of species catch and transport.

This project hopes to create a cost-effective, reliable and quantitative method for monitoring and reconstructing fisheries catch. The universality of DNA means this method can be applied to a variety of fisheries at a global scale for routine monitoring and targeted inspection.

Project Lead: Dr Madeline Green (Post-doctoral Research Fellow)