SturSNiP is an example of the new generation of cutting-edge genomic research projects focusing on non-model species. Our ability to produce genetic data has increased dramatically this decade and the technologies driving this development are now available beyond the initial research fields of human genomics, medicine and agriculture. As such, SturSNiP sits alongside other projects that are utilizing state-of-the-art genomic marker discovery methods to develop DNA identification tools for use in trade regulation and conservation law enforcement (e.g. the EU FP7 FishPopTrace project and the UK Food Standards Agency‟s Meat Breed Verification project).
It is important that SturSNiP results are integrated into this emerging area of DNA-based traceability. With this in mind, consideration is given to the format of project data, the potential to standardize protocols for downstream validation work and the development of a consensus regarding the statistical analysis and interpretation of results that may ultimately be used in a legal framework. The SturSNiP lead partner TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network has extensive links in the field of non-human forensic genetics. Through its involvement with existing projects (mentioned above) and collaborations with organisations addressing issues of illegal fishing and trade (FAO, EU, Interpol, Customs, Marine Stewardship Council), it is taking a lead on the transfer of academic science into forensic application. It is therefore well placed to help ensure that the opportunities presented by SturSNiP are fully realized. Ultimately a series of forensically validated DNA tests for the identification of Acipenser products along the trade chain will be produced and made available to control and enforcement authorities.
In parallel to the primary aims and objectives of the SturSNiP project that focus on caviar traceability, its research component also addresses a key need highlighted by the Caspian Sea Environment Programme’s 2009 sturgeon genetics meeting (Doukakis 2009). The current lack of markers for species resolution, population structure determination or pedigree verification severely restrict range states from managing wild and hatchery stocks of Acipenser species. The markers developed by SturSNiP will be of great value to the conservation management of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and beyond.
To maximise dissemination and ensure uptake of the SturSNiP project outputs by enforcement and conservation management authorities, a strategy was devised in conjunction with the JRC FISHREG action for how best to promote the project. This involves approaches such as publication of the project report and submission of papers to peer-reviewed journals, but will also include pro-active outreach to relevant international stakeholders such as enforcement authorities and practicing forensic laboratories in order to maximize knowledge about the potential for sturgeon product traceability created by this project. In line with this approach data and results will be integrated into a Geographical Information System (GIS) based framework developed by the JRC.
Sampling Map: This map depicts the areas where specimens of Russian (A. gueldenstaedtii), Persian (A. persicus), Siberian (A. baerii) and Adriatic (A. naccarii) sturgeon were sampled for analysis.