This DNA-testing system, co-developed by Cardeñosa and Chapman and funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, uses a shark’s DNA to create essentially a barcode for shark species. Since some shark fins are difficult to visually identify, they often pass through ports uninspected. The DNA Toolkit gives inspectors a quick, reliable, and — at 96 cents per sample — a cost-effective way to detect and identify threatened species. Along with Vulcan’s support for outreach and advocacy work on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the foundation’s support of Global FinPrint, the world’s first global survey that found sharks were functionally extinct on many of the world's reefs
, the DNA Toolkit is helping authorities enforce much needed management and protection measures.
“It’s amazing to see that our tool is being used officially as an inspection tool in one of the largest shark fin trading hubs in the world,” said Cardeñosa.
At the same time, Chapman was talking to reporters after his published research
showed, for the first time, that sharks have DNA “zip codes.” Using the DNA Toolkit and shark fins found in the Hong Kong market to help his detective work, Chapman revealed sharks have distinct signatures allowing them to be traced back to the regions where they were caught.
These were a couple big days for Cardeñosa and Chapman. The technology they had developed was helping law enforcement crack down on the illegal shark fin trade and — at the same time — their research was exposing key fishing hot spots.
“It was reassuring on two levels,” said Chapman. “One is that the tools we're helping put in place for the Hong Kong authorities are helping them. And the research we’re doing is confirming what we’re seeing in the market.”