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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 330:201-211 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps330201

Genetic structure of whiting Merlangius merlangus in the northeast Atlantic and adjacent waters

Grégory Charrier1,2,*, Steve H. Coombs3, Ian H. McQuinn4, Jean Laroche1

1Laboratoire LEMAR (UMR CNRS 6539), Institut Universitaire Européen de la Mer, Place Nicolas Copernic, Technopôle Brest-Iroise, 29280 Plouzane, France
2NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Santa Cruz Laboratory, 110 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
3The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
4Hydroacoustic Laboratory, Marine Fish and Marine Mammals Division, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Maurice Lamontagne Institute, CP 1000, 850 route de la Mer, Mont-Joli, Quebec, Canada

ABSTRACT: Accurate identification of stock boundaries is essential for efficient fisheries management; hence, the present study focused on the genetic structure of whiting. To this aim, 488 individuals collected from the southern Bay of Biscay to the southern Norwegian coast were genotyped using 7 microsatellites. A low level of genetic structuring was detected in Atlantic waters; only the Bay of Biscay differentiated from more northern samples. The lack of genetic structure along the western margin of the British Isles is consistent with a high level of passive transport of pelagic eggs and larvae due to the combined influence of the North Atlantic Current and the Shelf Edge Current. High levels of dispersal could also occur between the western British Isles and the North Sea through both the branching of the North Atlantic Current into the northern North Sea and the residual current flowing from the English Channel to the Southern Bight. In contrast, a significant genetic structure was identified within the North Sea, and this may be associated with the complex oceanography of this basin and retention systems reducing larval dispersal. In addition, considering also genetic, phenotypic and tag–recapture data collected on whiting, a learned homing behaviour of adults toward spawning areas may be hypothesised.

KEY WORDS: Whiting · Merlangius merlangus · Microsatellites · Genetic structure · Larval dispersal

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