The importance of genetic verification for determination of Atlantic salmon in north Pacific waters
Genetic analyses of two unknown but putative Atlantic salmon Salmo salar captured in the Copper River drainage, Alaska, demonstrated the need for validation of morphologically unusual fishes. Mitochondrial DNA sequences (control region and cytochrome b) and data from two nuclear genes [first internal transcribed spacer (ITS-1) sequence and growth hormone (GH1) amplification product] indicated that the fish caught in fresh water on the Martin River was a coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch, while the other fish caught in the intertidal zone of the Copper River delta near Grass Island was an Atlantic salmon. Determination of unusual or cryptic fish based on limited physical characteristics and expected seasonal spawning run timing will add to the controversy over farmed Atlantic salmon and their potential effects on native Pacific species. It is clear that determination of all putative collections of Atlantic salmon found in Pacific waters requires validation. Due to uncertainty of fish identification in the field using plastic morphometric characters, it is recommended that genetic analyses be part of the validation process.