Regional Perspectives

Fisheries experts working in various regions of the world presented information concerning ongoing programs in their region. Collectively, they presented a global view of fish biodiversity, suggesting that the initial representation of researchers in FISH-BOL is of a sufficient critical mass to commence the project's stated objective of barcoding all fish.

North American fishes have the benefit of being the best-known, with several recent compilations available to guide the FISH-BOL effort. Scripps is compiling a DNA Bank of California fishes. They have also had recent success in developing a technique to obtain short sequences from formalin preserved specimens, which is proving useful for linking barcode OTUs with named specimens held in reference collections.
Barcoding specimens from Central America, particularly the Isthmus of Panama, will provide an excellent opportunity to compare patterns of morphologic and genetic evolution. Some taxa occurring on either side of the isthmus are considered to be conspecific while other similar species are not. There must be some equivalency in making such taxonomic designations and divergence measures derived from molecular data can help resolve existing discrepancies.

Taxonomic work on South American species is ongoing and the University of Concepcion will establish a regional genetic resource center that could help serve DNA barcoding. Funds are available for defining existing stocks and to support training visits. Capacity building is a major priority for this region and interested researchers should consider becoming involved with the initial phase of FISH-BOL for this region.

European waters have seen a regional decline in species diversity, likely the result of commercial exploitation. A number of relevant EU consortia are well positioned to aid FISH-BOL, including the Fishtrace project and Fish and Chips which is an array-based approach to species identification. The role of barcoding to management efforts involving local EU fisheries could be exemplified through studies of larval dispersal.

The Oceania region provides an opportunity for generating barcodes from over 6,100 species. Planned work in this region includes the BioCode project, with efforts to barcode the flora and fauna of Moorea and its surrounding waters. Such an initiative will demonstrate many exciting applications of barcoding, including projects aimed at increasing our understanding of community assemblies and food webs.

New Zealand and Antarctica offer special opportunities for barcoding, as this region contains both cryptic and cosmopolitan species. Barcoding fishes of this region will enable efficient detection of catch substitutions, where low value species are substituted for high value species in the market and will also extend to the detection of quota substitutions. These are universal benefits of fish barcoding. For example, southern bluefin tuna are regulated under a quota in New Zealand waters while northern bluefin are not. A single bluefin tuna can be worth as much as $50,000 USD, which provides a strong commercial incentive to mislabel southern bluefin catches. Antarctic waters represent about 10% of the world's ocean, yet there are only about 300 species known from this area suggesting these waters might be a lower priority for FISH-BOL given the expense of collecting in them. However, many of these species will likely be collected via a new CoML project focussed in Antarctic waters.

Australian waters range from tropical and temperate to subarctic. While the region contains a large water mass, it is of low productivity. About 4,500 species, or 25% of all marine species, occur in Australian waters, including many endemics. CSIRO has already obtained samples from some 550 species, including 450 that are commercially harvested. An additional 200 species of freshwater fishes must also be considered. In Australia, the recently established National Oceans Office has been charged with developing a plan for the sustainable use of fisheries, which should drive a local interest in barcoding to aid management decisions.

The fishes of Asian waters have been the target of intensive genetic work, largely led by the Fish Mitochondrial Research Group in Japan. They have as one of their aims the collecting and archiving of about 80% of the fishes in Japan (about 4000 species), with vouchers located primarily in the Natural Science Museum, Tokyo. While their work will focus on characterization of ND4-5, COI sequences could be collected to aid the FISH-BOL campaign.

Russian waters include approximately 568 marine species and about 400 freshwater species. Russia has taxonomic experts for 22 families that have agreed to help with the problem of specimen collection and identification. They are interested in participating and estimate that collection costs would average about $10 USD per specimen, although projected costs to sequence DNA locally are higher than that.

Indian waters contain approximately 1,500 species. India relies heavily on fisheries, harvesting some 6 million metric tons annually from over 400 species. Several institutions in India are poised to support FISH-BOL and identifiable sources of funding exist for this sampling program. The Zoological Survey of India can help with taxonomic identifications and has plans for a national fish museum that could serve as a regional archive for voucher specimens. The possibility also exists to establish an exchange program for training other Asian colleagues.

The fishes of inland waters in Africa and Madagascar are being surveyed by teams from the American Museum of Natural History and the Royal Belgian Academy, while the South African Institute of Marine Biodiversity has played an early role in archiving marine fishes from this region that have been used in barcode pilot studies. The ongoing surveys include sequencing of COI for selected specimens and also includes the collection of digital images for voucher specimens that will son be publicly available.