Joint research project


Project leaders
Angela Cuttitta, Sharif Jemaa
LIBANO - CNRS-L - National Council for Scientific Research of Lebanon
CNR/CNRS-L biennio 2018-2019 2018-2019
Earth system science and environmental technologies
Thematic area
Earth system science and environmental technologies
Status of the project

Research proposal

To date Italy represents the second trade partner of Lebanon, and the first at European level, with a leadership role in key sectors such as machinery and building materials. In the period between 2006 and 2011, the Italian Cooperation has allocated more than 250 million euro in grants and soft loans, becoming one of the biggest donors to Lebanon. Thus, relations between Italy and Lebanon have always been profound and deeply rooted.
This applies to science cooperation as well. Besides the Agreement on Scientific Cooperation between the CNR and the CNRS-L - the framework of the present project proposal - a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2014 by these two institutions with the aim of carrying out high-level research activities in the field of Marine Sciences. This important tool can be considered as a follow-up of the CANA-CNRS Project on "Establishing Monitoring and Sustainable Development of the Lebanese Sea" co-financed by the Italian Cooperation which had donated the CANA Research Vessel (R/V) to the Government of Lebanon.
Taking into account the CNR-IAMC's prominent role in marine sciences, as well as past research initiative joined by the CNR and the CNRS-L (i.e. SESAME - FP6 - Project reference: 36949), the present proposal is inspired to the CANA-CNRS Project and its continuation, the CANA plus project- both funded by the Italian Cooperation - and aims to provide a marine sciences multidisciplinary-based contribution to the cooperation between the CNR and the CNRS-L.
This project proposal is focused on marine sciences and brings in some process and product-related scientific innovations that can be relevant for the Lebanese and the Italian fisheries sectors. In particular, knowledge sharing and expertises on molecular analyses tools applied to marine resources and seafood authenticationrepresentsthe objective of this project proposal.
Specific tools will be developed to improve traceability of Mediterranean resources. Among molecular analysis, DNA authentication technologies will be applied to sea-food certification and marine resources management.
The relevance of this proposal is embedded in the opportunities deriving from Lebanon's fisheries sector and its role in enhancing local communities living in front of the sea. This sector is composed of a little artisanal fishing fleet, namely 1460 licensed vessels (in 2011) predominantly operated by rather aged fishers using old boats with dated equipment. The production of the fisheries sector, of roughly 3.500 annual tons in recent years, is increasing but cannot cover the fish consumption at national level. As a result, Lebanon is dependent on fishing imports. According to figures published by the Lebanese customs administration combined with the figures produced by Pinello&Dimech, 2013 (Socio-Economic Analysis of the Lebanese Fishing Fleet. GCP/INT/041/EC - GRE - ITA/TD-16), Lebanon imports 78% of the consumed seafood products. The export versus import is negligible, which means that the domestic production accounts for about 22% of the seafood products consumed in the country, makes the country highly dependent on the import. In 2016 FAO has started a process to develop Fisheries Management Plans according to the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries, which is defined as an integrated approach to fisheries that strives to balance diverse societal objectives in the use of aquatic ecosystems. It addresses both human and ecological well-being and merges two paradigms - that of protecting and conserving ecosystems and that of fisheries management, which focuses on providing food, income and livelihoods in a sustainable manner.
Because the mislabeling of food products and ingredient substitutions represent emerging issues in nutritional quality and food safety (Wong and Hanner, 2008; Cawthom et al. 2013; Evestine et al. 2013), the authentication of food components represents one of the key issues in food safety. As a result, setting shared protocols of molecular analysis for the development of strategic guidelines on sustainable coastal and fisheries development, food quality and certification, represents a major issue in the management of the Mediterranean biological resources. In fact, it has been reported that seafood and corresponding derivates has a considerable rate of mislabeling, thus constituting one of the top food categories associated with fraud (Jonhson 2014).Intriguingly, many fish species show similar texture, thus the certification of fish products is particularly important when fishes have undergone procedures affecting the overall anatomical structure, such as heading, slicing or filleting (Marko et al. 2004). Moreover, many different species may share some morphological traits, making it difficult the exact species assessment by consumers. The absence of morphological traits and/or sharp distinctive traits, usually used to identify animal species, make the species identification quite challenging, even for specialists. Thus, powerful and reliable methods are needed in order to assess species and/or specimens provenance regardless of morphological traits. In fact, such limitations can be overcome by means of molecular methods, which exploit interspecific genetic differences. Among them, DNA-based methods, including the DNA barcoding technology, are even more frequently employed for food authentication (Lockley and Barzley 2000) in order to assess either the identity and/or provenance of marketed products, as well as to unmask mislabeling and fraudulent substitutions, difficult to detect especially in manufactured seafood (Galimberti et al. 2013; Barbuto et al. 2010; Filonzi et al. 2013).
To date, the expertise on DNA-based identification procedures were massively used at IAMC CNR in applied and basic research programs for marine species identifications sea food certification and marine resources management.

Research goals

The objectives will be accomplished either during two visits/workshop to be held in Lebanon, or through the molecular analysis carried out at the IAMC-CNR's Labs. Obtained results will be shared within the partnership and used as a tool for the development of consolidated protocols in Mediterranean fisheries managements and sea food authentication.
Objectives can be summarized as follows:
o Enhancement of the Italian-Lebanese cooperation in the field of marine sciences, within the framework of the Cooperative Program between the CNR and the CNRS-L.
o Contribute to the protection and promotion of East Mediterranean and Lebanese fisheries resources through DNA IDENTIFICATION OF FISHERIES RESOURCES
o Unmask mislabeling and fraudulent substitutions, difcult to detect especially in manufactured seafood
o Enhancement of food-applied molecular biology research for the definition of a tastynetwork between the CNR and the CNRS-L expectantly further grants from the EC (e.g. Horizon 2020).
o Support to the Italian-Lebanese economic cooperation in the field of fisheries and the sea food processing industry, with an eye on certified products, an increased knowledge on products and the fight against mislabeling and food frauds. The projects should be considered as a starting point for further economic cooperation, such as joint ventures in the fishery sector, based on certified products.
o Contribute to food security and the sustainable exploitation of renewable marine resources.

Last update: 27/11/2021