Oceana scientist awarded Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to improve transparency of fish feed

Press Release Date: February 29, 2024



Natividad Sánchez | email: nsanchez@oceana.org | tel.: +34 687 598 529

Marine Cusa, Ph.D., an expert in genetic identification of seafood products, is a policy advisor on illegal fishing and transparency at Oceana in Europe

Marine Cusa, Ph.D., a policy advisor with Oceana, was selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts as a recipient of the 2024 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. As one of six international researchers awarded the fellowship this year, Cusa will explore ways to improve the transparency of the sourcing of fish feed in Europe. Her research will complement Oceana’s campaign work to increase the traceability of imported and processed seafood in the European Union.

Cusa will use genetic tools to improve transparency in European aquaculture by identifying the major fish-feed suppliers and analysing samples of forage fish used as feed by the sector. She will optimise a genetic technique used to identify species from highly processed products, apply it to examine the composition of diets used in aquaculture, and draw conclusions on their sourcing and sustainability. She will also develop and test a DNA-based species identification tool that will enable aquaculture producers, regulators, and others to rapidly and cost-effectively identify key forage fish species in fish-meal products.

“Numerous threats imperil the ocean’s delicate ecosystems and among them, unsustainable fishing stands out. The research I will conduct under the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation will focus on using advanced genetic tools to uncover some of the fish species present in the fish feed used in salmon farms in Europe,” Cusa said. “Through this work, I hope to evaluate whether these species are harvested ethically and sustainably, and thereby promote responsible practices.”

Lack of traceability of imported and processed seafood in the EU

The research to be developed by Cusa thanks to the Pew Fellowship will run in parallel with Oceana’s campaign to increase the traceability and the environmental and social sustainability of processed and imported seafood in the EU.

Traceability obligations for fresh seafood products are very strong in the EU, which requires key information such as species name, origin, and catching method, to be passed along the supply chain all the way up to consumers. In contrast, processed products, both EU-sourced and imported, are not required to provide these data, preventing full traceability for this kind of seafood. Therefore, there is a higher risk that these products are associated with illegal fishing, unsustainable environmental practices and human rights abuses. To empower consumers, seafood businesses, restaurants and retailers to make sustainable seafood choices, Oceana believes that the EU should require consumer information for all seafood products.

Learn about Marine Cusa’s research project (Pew Marine Fellows Program)

Oceana’s campaign to eliminate illegal fishing through transparency