Shark Poaching Exposed by the Science Exchange Network

June 8, 2017 | Posted by Team in Research, Stories |

by Kaitlin Ziemer and JR Clark, Science Exchange | www.scienceexchange.com

Today, we celebrate World Oceans Day with a Science Exchange success story. This is a story about connecting ocean conservation advocates with the scientists whose expertise is helping to guide conservation strategy.  

World Oceans Day -- Sharks

Robust shark populations are a sign of healthy oceans. [photo credit: JR Clark]

The Project Earth team from Fusion TV approached Science Exchange with a unique sequencing project. They were working on a documentary film about the illegal poaching of sharks for use in shark cartilage capsules.

Studies have shown that shark cartilage is ineffective or even pro-inflammatory. Despite this and the importance of conserving sharks, who are the ocean’s apex predators, the cartilage capsule industry has managed to persuade retailers and consumers that shark cartilage could promote joint and bone health.

The Fusion TV Project Earth team wanted to find out if cartilage pills contained illegally obtained shark tissue. They needed a service provider who could perform DNA sequencing on 30 different supplements to see if they contained protected or endangered sharks.

Through the Science Exchange network, the Fusion TV Project Earth team obtained sequencing services from Laragen, Inc., a California-based service provider. Together, they were able to detect DNA from the endangered scalloped hammerhead sharks, whose trade is highly regulated, in the capsules sold at nationwide health food stores and pharmacies.

The Fusion TV Project Earth team urged both the cartilage pill manufacturers and retailers to share more precise information about the origins of the shark material found in the pills. In response, two major retailers removed shark cartilage pills from their stores and website.

These results showed that scientific evidence can influence positive change and help to protect our natural environment. And by providing the Fusion TV Project Earth team with easy access to the world’s best scientific service providers, Science Exchange helped put the data directly into the hands of the agents of change.

About the authors:

 

Kaitlin Ziemer, B.S., is a Senior Sourcing Manager and Account Lead at Science Exchange. With her extensive prior experience in managing toxicology and regulated studies for large biopharma and contract research organizations, Kaitlin now specializes in human and animal tissue procurement.

JR Clark, M.S., is Science Exchange’s expert in shark biology, given his extensive research experience in evolutionary development and reproductive behavior of vertebrates. As a Sourcing Manager, he manages a wide variety of projects from basic research through drug discovery.

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