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The curated genetic reference database for fish species
Allowing an unambiguous determination of fisheries products

AquaGene provides free access to curated genetic information of marine fish species. Its searchable database allows species identification by DNA sequence comparisons. All species are characterized by multiple gene sequences, presently including the standard COI barcoding gene together with CYTB, MYH6 and RHOD, facilitating unambiguous species determination even for closely related species or those with high intraspecific diversity. The genetic data is complemented online with additional data of the sampled specimen, such as digital images, voucher number and geographic origin.


The genetic database aquagene.org is a collaborative product developed by the German Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology (Bremerhaven), Max Rubner-Institute - Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products (Kiel) and Impetus Bioscience GmbH (Bremerhaven) funded by the Innovative Research Programme of the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food.

Sample collection was supported by the project "Traceability of Fish and Fish Products" in collaboration between the University Mohammed V-Agdal - Faculty of Sciences (Rabat) and the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology, funded bilaterally by the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Formation of Cadres and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the research cooperation programme PMARS II (Project Number 12/30).


Seafood mislabeling is a global problem with (potentially negative) consequences for consumers, traders and the environment. DNA-based methods have proven useful to reliably identify species and help to uncover fraud. This holds especially true for processed food that cannot be examined by morphological traits or species groups that are morphologically similar. With more than 33,000 living fish species worldwide, the taxonomic expertise along the trade chain, including control agencies, is often insufficient to accurately determine species to high taxonomic levels by morphological characters alone.

The goal of aquagene.org is to provide a curated genetic reference database for fish species that allows an unambiguous determination of fisheries products.


Each species is genetically characterized by up to four gene sequences. In addition to the mitochondrial (mt) barcoding gene cytochrome-c-oxidase I (COI), which is widely used in the scientific community to characterize all living organisms (with few taxonomic exceptions) these genes comprise the mt cytochrome b (CYTB) and the two nuclear genes myosin 6 (MYH6) and rhodopsin I (RHOD). Thereby, even genetically similar species may be distinguished with high accuracy.

The collection of samples originates primarily from the geographic area of the Central Eastern Atlantic off the coast of West Africa, one of the most important areas of fish imports for the EU. Continued sampling will extend our collections gradually to incorporate other fishing areas of economic relevance. The future sampling strategy prioritizes species of high economic interest and from geographic areas currently underrepresented in other genetic databases.


A genetic database collaboration developed by the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology together with the Max Rubner-Institute - Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products and Impetus Bioscience.

Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

Sample collection performed by the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology in cooperation with the University Mohammed V-Agdal (Morocco), the Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas (Cape Verde), the National Agricultural Research Institute (The Gambia) and the EAF-Nansen Project.

Funded by the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Formation of Cadres and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


Reinhold Hanel (portrait)
Reinhold Hanel portrait

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Responsible for the content/editorial:
Prof. Dr. Reinhold Hanel

Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute

Institute of Fisheries Ecology
Herwigstraße 31, 27572 Bremerhaven, Germany
Phone: +49 471 94460 200
Fax: +49 471 94460 199
Email: aquagene@thuenen.de

Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute
Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries
Bundesallee 50, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
Phone: +49 531 596 1218
Fax: +49 531 596 1099
Email: info@thuenen.de

© 2024 Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute