Conservation and enhancement of wild fish populations: preserving genetic quality versus genetic diversity1 1

This paper is derived from the J.C. Stevenson Memorial Lecture delivered by Bryan Neff at the Canadian Conference for Fisheries Research in Winnipeg, Manitoba, January 2010.

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Abstract:

Nearly 40% of commercial fisheries have now collapsed or are in serious decline. In response, governments have invested millions of dollars into artificial breeding programs, but many programs have failed to rehabilitate dwindling wild stocks. This failure may in part lie in the lack of knowledge about the genetic architecture of fitness: the genes and genotypes that are associated with individual performance. In this paper we discuss (i) artificial breeding programs, (ii) the genetic architecture of fitness, (iii) additive and nonadditive genetic effects on fitness, (iv) genetic diversity and evolvability, and (v) natural breeding and adaptation. We argue that most breeding programs do not maintain genetic adaptations and may consequently be ineffective at rehabilitating or enhancing wild populations. Moreover, there is no evidence that preserving genetic diversity as measured from neutral genetic markers increases fish performance or population viability outside of populations that experience strong inbreeding depression, and limited data that genetic diversity increases the potential for populations to adapt to changing environments. We suggest that artificial breeding programs should be used only as a last resort when populations face imminent extirpation and that such programs must shift the focus from solely preserving genetic diversity to preserving genetic adaptations.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/f2011-029

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada. 2: Department of Biology, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, Canada.

Publication date: June 4, 2011

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  • 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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