PHL to start DNA barcoding of marine resources to discourage poachers

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Oct. 6 (PNA) — The Philippine government will implement DNA barcoding on turtles and other aquatic resources by 2016, amid rampant illegal fishing and poaching in the country’s exclusive economic zone, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has revealed.

In an interview, DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Theresa Lim said the DNA barcoding will be used to trace the origin of fish and aquatic resources being smuggled, as well as to penalize smugglers.

“Dito sa atin, bina-barcode nila ang DNA para kahit lumabas ang mga huli, mate-trace na galing dito sa Pilipinas. Kasi minsan dine-deny nila, sinasabi nila na kinuha nila ito sa iba (In the Philippines, we are now collecting through barcodes the DNA of our aquatic resources, so that in case they are smuggled, we can still determine if the species were caught in our territorial waters. There have been instances wherein smugglers deny the origin of their catch),” Lim said Sunday on the sidelines of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Food Security and the Blue Economy here.

A DNA barcoding is a taxonomic method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism’s DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species.

The DENR is currently working with the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology, she said.

“Inuumpisahan na natin with the UP Institute of Biology. Bina-barcode na nila yung DNA,” she disclosed.

“Right now, every time na may confiscation, yung mga turtles natin, we take the DNA samples, tapos nilalagay sa data base, para ma-match mo ngayon ang sample,” she added.

Lim said the use of DNA barcoding would discourage smugglers from catching fishes and endangered species.

Undersecretary of the DENR Manuel Gerochi said during a press conference that so far, several recommendations have been raised on monitoring the catch of fishes, the volume of fishes that are caught, provisions on how to preserve resources, and prevention of illegal fishing, among others.

He said a lot of recommendations are coming in.

“I can’t lay all (the recommendations) at this point in time, since the action plan is still under negotiation. There are still some back-door negotiations going on at this point in time,” he said. (PNA)