Worldwide, the cultivation of Atlantic Salmon has increased exponentially since the late 1960s. Coincident with this increased growth has been an increased incidence of farmed escapes and hence the likelihood of genetic interactions between wild and farmed Atlantic Salmon. Assessing the potential impacts of these escapes on wild salmon populations is complicated by the complexity of domesticated strains and  a lack of available genomic tools. In our lab we are developing panels of genetic markers, mainly single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP),  that are being used to quantify the genetic impacts of escaped farmed Atlantic Salmon on wild populations.  Specifically we are measuring the frequency and geographic extent of interbreeding between domesticated and wild salmon.  Our work has developed genomic screening tools that can rapidly, accurately, and cost effectively quantify the presence of escapes, recent hybrids, and the extent of interbreeding with wild populations. This work is a first step towards identifying impacts of wild/farmed salmon interactions in Atlantic Canada and the development of appropriate mitigation measures.  This work is jointly funded both by DFO and a related NSERC Strategic Project Grant in collaboration with Memorial University.

Staff collecting genetic samples from young salmon in southern Newfoundland to test for evidence of hybridization among wild and farm escaped salmon.

Links to some recent media regarding this work:

DFO study confirms widespread mating between wild and farmed Atlantic salmon

CBC Fisheries Broadcast Interview:

CBC Here and Now story: