Genomic technologies hold tremendous potential for protecting marine life

 Genetic and genomic technologies hold tremendous potential for protecting marine life, but are currently being underutilized, Australian experts have found.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the University of Melbourne and the state government of New South Wales reviewed how genetics and genomics were utilized in ocean management initiatives.

In an essay published by the journal PLOS Biology, they pointed out that the use of genetic and genomic approaches can help advance marine conservation and restoration, through both traditional strategies and more recent developments.

DNA sequencing, for example, can now identify illegally harvested seafood products to protect threatened species, as DNA is emerging as a more feasible alternative or complement to SCUBA-based surveys and can assist in monitoring disease outbreaks and the spread of invasive species.

The study also indicated that genomic techniques can greatly improve data accuracy and spatial resolution in fisheries management to ensure long-term sustainability and health of harvested species, when compared with traditional methods, including mark-recapture studies, otolith chemistry and fishery-independent surveys.

“Although genetic techniques have been employed in marine conservation for decades and the availability of genomic data is rapidly expanding, widespread application still lags behind other data types,” the study noted.

Looking to the future, the researchers called for efforts to develop accessible information-sharing platforms, boost collaboration between various stakeholders of marine ecosystems and increase relevant funds. ■

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