New “chemical footprint” study will work with police to track stolen salmon

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Thefts cost Chilean salmon industry USD 50 million per year.

New funding has been awarded to the University of La Frontera, to conduct an isotopic study of carbon and nitrogen in salmon for forensic purposes in the investigation of crimes of animal theft.

In a statement from the Chilean University, it was explained that the “Science against crime, use of stable isotopes to trace the origin of stolen animals” project will also use the study for the country’s cattle thefts, which costs ranchers around USD 5.6 million a year. For the salmon industry, thefts cost up to USD 50 million annually.

The work will help police get geo-referenced chemical tracers that allow them to know the origin of the animals that are seized and thus understand who their owners are.

The initiative is led by students, La Frontera director of Biotechnology Juan Carlos Hermosilla, as well the academic and member of the Chilean Research Police, Alejandra Figueroa Carvajal.

The aim is to solve a regional problem through the development of methodologies to combat this type of crime, which they say is difficult to prosecute for lack of scientific evidence.

Biotechnology student Emilio Perdiguero said that they will be to be able to determine the traceability of animals from taking of samples such as bone or skin tissue.

“If applied here, the logistical costs of the police could be reduced. This is a breakthrough for Chile, as while there are studies in this area in the United States, this type of analysis has not been applied as frequently,” said Perdiguero.

This project will leave a precedent where this type of evidence will be validated and thus a methodology, in case you want to implement it in the country and thus have a better justice system,” he added.

The project started at the end of last year and will begin its investigative phase in 2021, where it will last for 12 months. The first stage of the project will request sample inputs, where they will invite their international counterpart (the Brazilian Federal Police) to collaborate with field sampling.