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Loss of genetic integrity correlates with stocking intensity in brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Authors


Dany Garant, Fax: +1 819 821 8049; E-mail: dany.garant@usherbrooke.ca

Abstract

Supportive breeding and stocking performed with non-native or domesticated fish to support sport fishery industry is a common practice throughout the world. Such practices are likely to modify the genetic integrity of natural populations depending on the extent of genetic differences between domesticated and wild fish and on the intensity of stocking. The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of variable stocking intensities on patterns of genetic diversity and population differentiation among nearly 2000 brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) from 24 lakes located in two wildlife reserves in Québec, Canada. Our results indicated that the level of genetic diversity was increased in more intensively stocked lakes, mainly due to the introduction of new alleles of domestic origin. As a consequence, the population genetic structure was strongly homogenized by intense stocking. Heavily stocked lakes presented higher admixture levels and lower levels of among lakes genetic differentiation than moderately and un-stocked lakes. Moreover, the number of stocking events explained the observed pattern of population genetic structure as much as hydrographical connections among lakes in each reserve. We discuss the implications for the conservation of exploited fish populations and the management of stocking practices.

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