Stocking impact and migration pattern in an anadromous brown trout (Salmo trutta) complex: where have all the stocked spawning sea trout gone?

Authors

  • Daniel E. Ruzzante,

    Corresponding author
    1. Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Inland Fisheries, Vejlsøvej 39, Silkeborg, DK 8600, Denmark,
      and current address: Daniel E. Ruzzante, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3H 4J1. Fax: 902 494 3736; E-mail: daniel.ruzzante@dal.ca
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  • Michael M. Hansen,

    1. Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Inland Fisheries, Vejlsøvej 39, Silkeborg, DK 8600, Denmark,
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  • Dorte Meldrup,

    1. Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Inland Fisheries, Vejlsøvej 39, Silkeborg, DK 8600, Denmark,
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  • Kaare M. Ebert

    1. Danish Institute for Fisheries Research, Department of Inland Fisheries, Vejlsøvej 39, Silkeborg, DK 8600, Denmark,
    2. The Danish Anglers’ Association, Worsåesgade 1, DK 7100 Vejle, Denmark
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and current address: Daniel E. Ruzzante, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3H 4J1. Fax: 902 494 3736; E-mail: daniel.ruzzante@dal.ca

Abstract

We examined polymorphism at seven microsatellite loci among sea trout (Salmo trutta) (n = 846) collected from three areas in the Limfjord (Denmark). We then assessed their potential population source by comparing, using a mixed stock analysis (MSA) Bayesian framework, their genetic composition to that of brown trout collected from 32 tributaries pooled into nine geographical regions (n = 3801) and two hatcheries (n = 222) used for stocking. For each of the three regional sea trout groups (western, central and eastern Limfjord, n = 91, n = 426, n = 329, respectively), MSA was conducted with (i) all individuals in the group, (ii) with the subset of spawning sea trout only and (iii) with the subset of foraging, nonspawning individuals only, a subset that consisted primarily of sea trout caught during their first year at sea. For all three regional sea trout groups, a higher proportion of individuals (regardless of whether they were foraging or spawning) appear to have originated from the rivers that drain locally, than from the rivers that drain in other parts of the Limfjord. This suggests (1) that sea trout, at least during their first year at sea, undertake limited migrations within the Limfjord system and (2) that sea trout on their spawning run were caught close to their natal rivers. The proportion of sea trout of hatchery origin varied widely among all three Limfjord areas and broadly reflected regional stocking histories, with high proportions of sea trout of domestic origin in the east (39.3%), where stocking with domestic trout was practised intensely at the time of sampling, and in the west (57.2%), where a programme of coastal stocking of post smolts took place over several years in the early 1990s. In contrast, in the central Limfjord, where stocking with domestic trout was largely abandoned in the early 1990s, the proportion of sea trout of domestic origin was only 8.5%. Interestingly, for all three regional sea trout groups, virtually no sea trout of hatchery origin were found among the spawning individuals, which were on average larger than the nonspawning sea trout. These results suggest that stocked domestic brown trout that become anadromous experience high mortality at sea and are therefore largely absent among the larger, spawning individuals. We conclude that sea trout of domestic origin exhibit much reduced ability to reproduce and are unlikely to contribute significantly to the local gene pool largely because of a relatively high mortality at sea before the onset of maturity.

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