The following posters were developed to help enforcement officers quickly identify wet and dried fins of commercially traded CITES species. The posters provide a quick reference check for preliminary visual identification that will establish reasonable and probable cause for further actions.

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Poster 1 shows key points to look for when identifying oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and hammerhead shark (scalloped, smooth and great) fins, both dorsal and pectoral.

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Poster 2 shows the easiest methods for identifying silky dorsal and pectoral fins and thresher shark (bigeye, common and pelagic) pectoral fins. Note it is not possible to identify the thresher first dorsal fins using this poster and corresponding guide.

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There are DNA tools currently available to readily identify species-of-origin for shark fins, meat and other traded products at various points along the supply chain — from harvest to consumption— that will be used by laboratories that conduct genetic testing for CITES compliance and enforcement contexts. 


This manual synthesizes all of the DNA protocols available in the published literature as of 2018 and outlines a useful process to decide which protocols are best to use under different scenarios. All CITES listed sharks can be reliably identified using these genetic protocols. These protocols will help ensure any continued international trade of these shark species is legal, sustainable and traceable. Any shark product can be genetically tested using these techniques. However, this manual focuses primarily on shark fins and meat because they are the most commonly traded products in high volumes across international borders and thus, fall under the purview of CITES controls.


This manual was created for use by professional DNA analysts charged with the genetic testing of shark fins, meat fillets and other traded shark products in CITES enforcement contexts. It applies to all shark species listed in the Appendices of CITES as of October 2016 (CITES COP 17).

While this manual is focused on the shark species listed in the Appendices of CITES, the methods would apply to the CITES listed ray species as well.

Executive Summaries of the DNA Manual