Illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean has drastically decreased reef shark populations and severely impacted ocean ecosystems. The loss of these important species leads to imbalance in the oceanic food web, leading to a decline in coral reef health and the loss of other marine organisms that depend on health reef environments.
Advanced DNA sequencing presents an opportunity to identify sub-populations of reef sharks across the entire Indian Ocean region. This study is working to create a Genomic Seascape, or comprehensive DNA catalogue, of reef shark populations within the Indian Ocean which will enable enhanced tracking of shark populations. By matching genetic signatures of illegally fished sharks with those of catalogued populations, the location of areas that are being targeted by illegal fisheries can be identified. These Genomic Seascapes can then be used as a management tool once lower cost, portable sequencing technology and genetic testing capacity is introduced at key fishing ports in the Indian Ocean.