Changes in the genetic structure of Atlantic salmon populations over four decades reveal substantial impacts of stocking and potential resiliency



Charles Perrier, Institut de Biologie Intégrative et des Systèmes (IBIS), Université Laval, Québec, Canada. Tel: +1 418 656 2131;Fax: +1 418 656 7176; E-mail:


While the stocking of captive-bred fish has been occurring for decades and has had substantial immediate genetic and evolutionary impacts on wild populations, its long-term consequences have only been weakly investigated. Here, we conducted a spatiotemporal analysis of 1428 Atlantic salmon sampled from 1965 to 2006 in 25 populations throughout France to investigate the influence of stocking on the neutral genetic structure in wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations. On the basis of the analysis of 11 microsatellite loci, we found that the overall genetic structure among populations dramatically decreased over the period studied. Admixture rates among populations were highly variable, ranging from a nearly undetectable contribution from donor stocks to total replacement of the native gene pool, suggesting extremely variable impacts of stocking. Depending on population, admixture rates either increased, remained stable, or decreased in samples collected between 1998 and 2006 compared to samples from 1965 to 1987, suggesting either rising, long-lasting or short-term impacts of stocking. We discuss the potential mechanisms contributing to this variability, including the reduced fitness of stocked fish and persistence of wild locally adapted individuals.