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How different is different? Defining management and conservation units for a problematic exploited species

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Discontinuous genetic structure is widely used to delineate local, regional, and phylogenetic groups within species for conservation and management purposes. We used microsatellite markers to assess the genetic distinctiveness of putative stocks and populations of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in Ontario waters. Analysis of spawning aggregations in eastern Lake Ontario showed fish from Chaumont Bay, New York, to be weakly differentiated from spawning whitefish in and near the Bay of Quinte, Ontario. No significant differences were found between lake- and bay-spawning aggregations within the Bay of Quinte. These same genetic tools were used to test the distinctiveness and evolutionary significance of Lake Simcoe lake whitefish as a designatable unit (DU) under guidelines established by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Although there was marked differentiation among populations from across Ontario, the Lake Simcoe population was closely allied with lake whitefish populations from Lake Ontario and Lake Huron, suggesting that a distinct status is not warranted on genetic grounds. This work demonstrates how assessing hierarchical diversity under COSEWIC’s framework can provide key information of the status of exploited populations for fishery management.

Les structures génétiques discontinues servent couramment à délimiter les groupes locaux, régionaux et phylogénétiques au sein des espèces pour des fins de conservation et de gestion. Nous utilisons des marqueurs microsatellites afin d’évaluer le caractère distinctif de stocks présumés et de populations de grands corégones (Coregonus clupeaformis) dans les eaux ontariennes. Une analyse des rassemblements de fraie dans l’est du lac Ontario indique que les poissons de Chaumont Bay, New York, sont faiblement différenciés des corégones qui frayent dans la baie de Quinte, Ontario, et les environs. Au sein de la baie de Quinte, il n’y a pas de différence significative entre les rassemblements qui frayent dans le lac et ceux qui le font dans la baie. Les mêmes outils ont servi à tester le caractère distinctif et l’importance évolutive des grands corégones du lac Simcoe en tant qu’unité désignable (DU) selon les principes établis par le Comité sur situation des espèces en péril au Canada (COSEPAC). Bien qu’il existe une nette différenciation entre les populations réparties sur l’ensemble de l’Ontario, la population du lac Simcoe est fortement apparentée aux populations de grands corégones des lacs Ontario et Huron, ce qui laisse croire qu’il n’est pas justifié de lui attribuer un statut distinct d’après les critères génétiques. Notre travail démontre comment l’évaluation de la diversité génétique dans le cadre fourni par le COSEPAC peut apporter des renseignements sur le statut des populations exploitées essentiels pour la gestion des pêches.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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