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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Discriminating populations of Atlantic herring mixing in the Norwegian Sea feeding ground using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)

Christophe Pampoulie*, Aril Slotte, Guðmundur J. Óskarsson, Guðbjörg Ólafsdóttir, Jan Arge Jacobsen, Hóraldur Joensen, Sindri Karl Sigurðsson, Sæmundur Sveinsson, Leif Andersson, Anna Kristin Daníelsdóttir, Davíð Gíslason

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) feeding in the Norwegian Sea are assumed to consist of Norwegian spring spawners (NSSH), Icelandic summer spawners (ISSH) and North Sea autumn spawners (NSAH). Putative Norwegian autumn spawners (NASH), Faroese autumn (FASH) and spring (FSSH) spawners also feed in the area. Still, until there is a method to discriminate between populations in mixed samples, fishery and survey data from the Norwegian Sea will be solely attributed to the predominating NSSH, ultimately causing biased stock assessments. Hence, we evaluated if a panel of 120 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with spawning characteristics and salinity preferences would be an effective discrimination tool. The overall observed levels of genetic differentiation were high (FST = 0.57, P < 0.001, 95% CI: 0.51−0.62). Spawners from stocks under current management (NSSH, NSAH and ISSH) were well separated, but the putative populations were not. Discriminant Analysis of Principal Component as well as Structure runs confirmed the differentiation observed with FST. When the SNP panels were tested on commercial fishery samples of NSSH east of Iceland, up to 16% were assigned to ISSH. This implies that catch data are seriously biased and demonstrates the potential of SNP panels as a tool to solve the problem. Still, work is needed to develop improved SNP panels that effectively separate the putative populations from the managed stocks. We recommend that such a tool should be established in regular sampling of fishery and surveys in the Norwegian Sea and accounted for in future stock assessments, advice and management.