Media Release

04/12/2014
What fish egg is that?
James Cook University scientists are set to research an innovative solution to the tricky problem of how to cheaply and accurately identify fish eggs.

What fish egg is that?

James Cook University scientists are set to research an innovative solution to the tricky problem of how to cheaply and accurately identify fish eggs.

“In the past it has been very difficult to distinguish between the eggs of different species of fish, especially in the tropics where diversity is high,” said Dr Richard Saunders, a Queensland Department for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) scientist based at JCU, and lead investigator.

The research is funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and will be undertaken at JCU’s Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, in collaboration with DAFF and Northern Territory Fisheries.

The new method involves collecting fish eggs from the ocean and then binding tiny fluorescent beads to the DNA in the eggs. The beads only bind to a specific species allowing individual species to be targeted and their eggs identified.

When the beads have been attached they can be automatically counted using a flow cytometer, a machine that can rapidly count the tiny fluorescing particles. This way, large numbers of eggs can be screened quickly leading to more accurate assessment.

“This new technology has the potential to make fish egg identification much faster and cheaper than traditional methods and opens the opportunity to apply egg surveys and egg-based biomass assessments to a wider range of species,” said Dr Saunders. These are valuable tools in understanding and managing fisheries.

The technology is initially being developed and tested for Spanish mackerel in Queensland and then expanded to target a variety of small pelagic fishes in the Northern Territory.

Media contacts:

Dr Richard Saunders

(07) 4781 5114

richard.saunders@jcu.edu.au

Richard Davis

Head of Media and Communications, JCU

0413 451 475