Friday, May 18, 2007

DNA fingerprinting to find illegal whale 'bycatch'

DNA detective work has revealed that fishermen in South Korea are snaring far more whales in their nets than they admit. The "bycatch" is so large that some observers believe whales are being netted deliberately, breaking the moratorium on commercial whaling set by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
 
Whale meat can be sold legally in South Korea if the animals are caught by accident in fishing nets, but such deaths must be reported to the government. Between 1999 and 2003, fishermen reported snaring 458 minke whales. Now a team led by Scott Baker of Oregon State University in Newport says the true catch was nearly twice that number and threatens the survival of minke whales in the Sea of Japan.
 
Baker had South Korean colleagues buy minke meat from local markets and used DNA fingerprinting to determine how many individual whales the meat had come from.
 
 

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