HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date


Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only


Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Mahmood Shivji

Second Advisor

Andrew Rogerson

Third Advisor

Richard Spieler


Industrial scale exploitation of sharks globally to satisfy demands of the international shark fin market have resulted in trade in a few species considered particularly sensitive being restricted or controlled by national legislation or international accord (e.g. CITES). Despite these conservation efforts, trade in these species continues because law enforcement monitoring and surveillance is hindered by substantial difficulties with identifying species of origin of detached shark body parts. Additionally, attempts to assess the impacts of the fin trade on global shark populations generally have been thwarted by the almost complete absence of reliable species specific catch and trade data, the collection of which has proven immensely problematic due to species identification problems.

To improve management and conservation efforts for protected species, we present the development and application of a highly streamlined, robust, multiplex PCR assay for identification of basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus; CITES Appendix II) and sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus; protected in the U.S. and Australia) body parts in trade (Chapters 1 and 2, respectively). Furthermore, given the spatially “patchy” nature of national protective efforts for some species, identifying the geographic origin of traded products will be needed for legal enforcement and will be informative for assessing geographic trends in exploitation pressure. To this end, I present a novel, bi-organelle multiplex PCR approach that simultaneously distinguishes species and ocean-basin of origin for the sand tiger shark, and demonstrate its utility for identifying law-enforcement confiscated fins (Chapter 2). Finally, as part of a larger collaborative study with S. Clarke (National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, Japan) aimed at characterizing the impacts of the international shark fin trade on shark populations, the multi-species genetic forensic markers developed in the M. Shivji laboratory (Guy Harvey Research Institute, NSU Oceanographic Center) were used to investigate the species composition of the Hong Kong shark fin market, and report the first genetically confirmed relationship between Chinese market categories and shark species (Chapter 3).

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