Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Tracking fish and fish products

Project acronym: FISHPOPTRACE

Title of project: Fish population structure and traceability

Research area: The structure of fish populations and traceability of fish and fish products

Contract No: 212399

EU contribution: €2 949 984

Start date: 01-03-2008

Duration: 39 months


Although exploited fishes have traditionally been managed on a geographical basis, for conservation purposes they should be managed at the population level since the extent and dynamics of the population forms the basis for sustainability. More effective enforcement and conservation of fish populations demands a focus on identification and monitoring of wild fish populations and traceability of harvested products. FishPopTrace brings together expertise in fish traceability in order to integrate data from various European projects. The objective is to generate a single compatible database and tissue archive managed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. This project will examine single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and otolith microchemistry and morphometrics in widely distributed populations of cod, hake, herring and sole. It will also undertake validation of traceability tools in relation to end-user technology and develop a population monitoring system based on genetic and otolith data and use this to assess population stability in a temporal and spatial framework. It will also investigate the use of additional novel traceability systems (fatty acid profiles, proteomics, gene expression and microarray platform for SNP genotyping). These activities will facilitate technology transfer in relation to the enforcement and conservation policies of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and associated socio-economic activities.

Expected impacts

Results from this project will improve the traceability of fish and fish products and increase protection of consumers. It should have a significant impact on the EU fisheries industries through providing a forensic framework for the enforcement of regulations and laws that aim to reduce the amount of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing that occurs. The EU contributed to the FAO‘s international plan of action to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing (June 2001) and later drafted its own plan in COM(2002) 180 resulting in Regulation 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, implemented by Regulation 1010/2009. The results from this project will also facilitate implementation of regional allocation of quotas based on the relative abundance of respective stocks, not only in wild populations, but also through enforcement based on analysis of fish products and thereby enhance the Common Fisheries Policy (Regulation 2371/2002) aim to promote sustainability through, among other actions, conservation of genetic resources. Outputs such as population-level signatures associated with fish origins in early life and representative spawning groups can help the incorporation of population biodiversity into future management instruments and policies helping to underpin an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries resulting in an increased potential for the recovery of declining stocks. While, an enhanced understanding of the dynamics, temporal stability and distribution of the major populations of four key exploited fish species can result in a generally positive impact on marine ecosystems through conservation of fish stocks that has a positive effect not only on the economics and sustainability of the fisheries industry, but also on conservation of biodiversity.

Expected results

This project expects to build a framework providing tools for the end-user in the areas of fish population analysis and fish (product) traceability as well as for policy related monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement in the fisheries sector. It will provide guidance on fishery management issues through analysis of populations, their structure and dynamics as well as supporting aspects of consumer protection and enforcement through application of the techniques developed for traceability and forensics. It will also provide an overview of relevant policies and legislations related to both EU and worldwide fisheries. This project will produce such information in terms of the dynamics, temporal stability and distribution of major populations of four key exploited fish species: cod, hake, herring and common sole. A forensic framework for traceability of fish and fish products within the context of EU enforcement and conservation policies will be produced based on data from SNPs and otolith microchemistry and morphometric data. Results will be held in a number of databases that make the information available to non-scientific stakeholders such as fishery managers and policy makers. Initial results will be limited to around 7,500 samples relating to the four commercial species. However, the databases will be designed to be expanded and continually built on resulting in a full genetic characterization of the marine environment. The characteristics of the fish recorded (age, length, weight, reproductive characteristics, location and depth of catch, storage characteristics, etc) will be linked with results from genetic analysis in a series of satellite databases. This information will be made available through a publicly accessible Web-based geobrowser visualised through interactive maps. Information covering environmental parameters such as sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration and ocean currents, along with important internatio nal boundaries and economic zones will also be available through this interface, allowing possible inferences regarding the effects of environmental parameters on the genetic characteristics of a species to be generated, while also considering what economic or management areas are involved.

Website of project:


Coordinator: Gary Carvalho,

Organisation: BANGOR UNIVERSITY, United Kingdom,


Technical University of Denmark, Denmark,

Universita Degli Studi di Padova, Italy,

Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Spain,

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium,

Alma Mater Studiorum-Universita di Bologna, Italy,

Universitetet I Bergen, Norway,

European Commission - Joint Research Centre , Belgium,

Universitaet Bremen, Germany,

Institut Francais De Recherche Pour L'exploitation De La Mer, France,

National Agricultural Research Foundation, Ireland,

Asociacion Nacional De Fabricantes De Conservas De Pescados Y, Mariscos, Spain,

University Of Aarhus, Denmark,

Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, Russia

Trace Wildlife Forensics Network Limited, United Kingdom,