British Columbia

Salmon hatcheries produce genetically different fish, study finds

The study found hatchery-raised salmon are genetically different from the populations they are introduced into, which can cause problems when wild and hatchery populations interbreed in the wild.

Researcher says future work should focus on how to raise hatchery fish in conditions more like wild

Oregon State University research suggests wild salmon and hatchery salmon become genetically distinct very quickly. (The Canadian Press/Jonathon Hayward)

New research from Oregon State University suggests hatchery-raised salmon, which are bred to help bolster wild stocks in B.C. and elsewhere, are genetically different from the populations they're introduced into.

Researcher Michael Blouin says scientists have known for some time the offspring of wild and hatchery-raised salmon are less adept at surviving in the wild, negatively affecting the health of wild populations.

The question is, what is it about hatcheries that create fish believed to be inferior at surviving in the wild?

"What we found is that when you compare the fish that had two wild parents with those that had two hatchery parents, we see hundreds of genes with different activity," Blouin told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot.

"Many of these genes are related to wound repair and immune function … why that would cause a correlated ability to do worse in the wild is not clear. Maybe it's an energetic thing."

Blouin says hatchery conditions are often quite crowded, and the fish tend to be highly territorial. So in those conditions, wound repair and immune function could be more beneficial than they would be in the wild.

Blouin believes his research puts to rest the debate over whether hatchery-raised salmon — or other fish — are different from their wild counterparts, and future research should focus on how to raise hatchery fish in conditions that better reflect their wild environment.

CBC News contacted Fisheries and Oceans Canada about the study, but no one was available for comment.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Salmon hatchery fish genetically different from wild stocks, study finds


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