Genetic screening of farmed Atlantic salmon escapees demonstrates that triploid fish display reduced migration to freshwater
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Each year, hundreds of thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon escape from fish farms into the wild. Some of these escapees enter freshwater, and manage to interbreed with native populations. To hinder further genetic introgression in native populations, the use of sterile triploid salmon within commercial aquaculture is being examined. However, if triploid escapees migrate into freshwater, they may still have ecological impacts on local populations. In the present study, we used microsatellite DNA genotyping to determine the ploidy of 3794 farmed escapees captured in 17 Norwegian rivers in the period 2007–2014. Although a previous study has reported an average of 2 % triploids in Norwegian fish farms during this exact period, here, we only observed 7 (0.18 %) triploids among the escapees captured in freshwater. In addition, we identified three trisomic escapees. For the triploids where the within-river capture location was determined, they were only observed in the lower reaches and not on the spawning grounds. It is concluded that propensity for triploid Atlantic salmon to migrate into freshwater following escape from a fish farm is significantly lower than for normal diploid salmon escapees. Therefore, commercial production of triploids should not only be seen as an effective way of stopping genetic introgression, it will also significantly reduce the numbers of escapees entering rivers, which in turn limits ecological interactions and potential disease transmission.