February 10, 2021
Genomic tools offer insight for an iconic species
Vancouver, BC — Sockeye salmon are a significant part of the cultural, social, and economic fabric of British Columbia (BC). Responsible stewardship of wild sockeye salmon fisheries is becoming increasingly important as human pressures and environmental changes intensify.
One of the key challenges in sustainable salmon management is the ability to identify and protect at risk populations within a mixed stock fishery. BC’s sockeye fisheries are composed of fish from potentially hundreds of different populations, each with unique life histories, genetic makeup, and levels of productivity (population growth). Current methods for monitoring and protecting less productive, and therefore at risk, salmon populations would benefit from improvements in the speed, accuracy, and sensitivity of genetic tools applied to identify unique populations.
With funding from Genome BC and other partners, researchers from Simon Fraser University (SFU), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Coastal Rivers Conservancy and the Wild Salmon Center are collaborating with Indigenous groups to address this need. Together they will develop a cost-effective, rapid genomic tool to monitor and characterize 118 sockeye salmon populations in the North and Central Coast Region of BC. Using this tool, the team will also map migration routes and spawn timing of populations of sockeye caught in four culturally important fisheries. The results will allow careful assessment of temporal and spatial harvest risk to enable targeted harvest of low risk populations and avoidance of high risk populations.
“These genomic tools are state of the art for high throughput genotyping and will bring new power to our ability to identify the streams of origin of salmon caught in fisheries,” says project co-lead Dr. Ben Sutherland of the Molecular Genetics Lab of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
This project will aid in the assessment of sockeye salmon populations’ biological status in the North and Central Coast of BC. Sequencing individual genomes has allowed insight into the incredible diversity that exists amongst populations and this project is able to harness diversity as a genomic tool through a ‘SNP panel’.
“Pacific salmon have an amazing number of locally adapted populations with different local adaptations and genes. This project will help the effective stewardship of this remarkable biodiversity and sustainable fisheries,” says Dr. Jonathan Moore of Simon Fraser University, the project lead.
The team is collaborating with the Lax Kw’alaams fisheries, and the First Nations of Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Heiltsuk, and the Coastal Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance on the development and implementation of this work.
“This work is notable for both the tools being developed and the collaboration with our Indigenous partners,” says Dr. Federica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors, at Genome BC. “Our investment will support the management, and recovery, of this iconic fish.”
This work was funded through Genome BC’s GeneSolve program which seeks to foster applied and translational research by connecting the producers of genomics driven technologies with its end-users or consumers in BC’s Health, Agrifood and Natural Resources sectors.
Contact: Jennifer Boon, Communications Manager, Public and Media Relations