• bottleneck and conservation;
  • effective population size;
  • microsatellites;
  • Salmo salar L

Historic angling records suggest the occurrence of a drastic decline in the River Eo (Spain) Atlantic salmon population size during the past two decades, as a result of overexploitation and habitat deterioration. In recent years, the population has been apparently recovering, and the present study is aimed to report information on the level of genetic diversity and the effective size of the current population as these may have immediate consequences for its conservation. Eighty-six salmon from two temporal groups (1998–1999 and 2004–2006), representing three generations, were genotyped using a panel of eight microsatellites. Inspite of the recent decline in census numbers and the detection of the signs of a population bottleneck, the population exhibits a high level of genetic diversity, similar to that from other populations, and almost unchanged during the period of study [average allelic richness (A) = 14·0 and 13·9, and average heterozygosity (He) = 0·843 and 0·851 in 1998–1999 and 2004–2006, respectively]. The effective population size (Ne) estimated by two different temporal methods showed a consistent value around 80 salmon, whereas the estimates from the linkage disequilibrium (LD) method provided a value around 165 individuals for either sample. The recent growing number of salmon, as indicated by fisheries records, the relatively large estimates of the ratio Ne/N (with range 0·23–0·44 for the temporal estimates and 0·31–0·59 for the LD estimates) and the high levels of diversity found suggest that the population has not been greatly affected by the historical census declines and can be expected to recover in the future.