A glimpse into the genetic diversity of the Peruvian seafood sector: Unveiling species substitution, mislabeling and trade of threatened species

Alan Marín, José Serna, Christian Robles, Beder Ramírez, Lorenzo E. Reyes-Flores, Eliana Zelada-Mázmela, Giovanna Sotil, Ruben Alfaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Peru is one of the world’s leading fishing nations and its seafood industry relies on the trade of a vast variety of aquatic resources, playing a key role in the country’s socio-economic development. DNA barcoding has become of paramount importance for systematics, conservation, and seafood traceability, complementing or even surpassing conventional identification methods when target organisms show similar morphology during the early life stages, have recently diverged, or have undergone processing. Aiming to increase our knowledge of the species diversity available across the Peruvian supply chain (from fish landing sites to markets and restaurants), we applied full and mini-barcoding approaches targeting three mitochondrial genes (COI, 16S, and 12S) and the control region to identify samples purchased at retailers from six departments along the north-central Peruvian coast. DNA barcodes from 131 samples were assigned to 55 species (plus five genus-level taxa) comprising 47 families, 24 orders, and six classes including Actinopterygii (45.03%), Chondrichthyes (36.64%), Bivalvia (6.87%), Cephalopoda (6.11%), Malacostraca (3.82%), and Gastropoda (1.53%). The identified samples included commercially important pelagic (anchovy, bonito, dolphinfish) and demersal (hake, smooth-hound, Peruvian rock seabass, croaker) fish species. Our results unveiled the marketing of protected and threatened species such as whale shark, Atlantic white marlin, smooth hammerhead (some specimens collected during closed season), shortfin mako, and pelagic thresher sharks. A total of 35 samples (26.72%) were mislabeled, including tilapia labeled as wild marine fish, dolphinfish and hake labeled as grouper, and different shark species sold as “smooth-hounds”. The present study highlights the necessity of implementing traceability and monitoring programs along the entire seafood supply chain using molecular tools to enhance sustainability efforts and ensure consumer choice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0206596
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The funder (Biodes Laboratorios Soluciones Integrales S.C.R.L) provided support in the form of salaries for authors [AM, JS, CR], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section. We thank John Bower (Hokkaido University, Japan) for improving the use of English in the final version of the manuscript. The authors are also grateful to Renato Gozzer (WWF, Peru) for his useful comments on the Peruvian dolphinfish fishery and to Carlos Luque (IMARPE-Tumbes) for his help during the comparison of batoid species detected in this study with the ones listed in landing records from Tumbes. We also thank Ximena Velez-Zuazo (CCS-Smithsonian Institution) for her kind support in comparing smooth-hound (Mustelus sp.) DNA sequences from her previous work with sequences determined in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Marín et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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