Some salmon make one heck of a commute.
The record holder in the Pacific Northwest, for example, is a steelhead that was tagged in the Clearwater River, Idaho, in April 2003. A year and a half later, it was caught off the southern Kuril Islands near Japan. The most direct route between those two points as the crow flies, as they say is 4,200 miles. Imagine fish that make it that far then turn around and travel back to their home streams in order to spawn.
The ability of salmon to migrate such extraordinary distances makes it hard at a management level to know whose fish are whose and at a biological level to unravel the mystery of their ocean migration.
A $4.1 million effort just launched by the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences aims to help by gathering genetic information for thousands upon thousands of Pacific Rim salmon populations and creating open-access databases for managers, treaty-makers and scientists.
Jim and Lisa Seeb, known for their groundbreaking work identifying salmon populations using genetic markers, joined the UW this fall as research professors. Genetic markers are key bits of a fish's DNA that, when compared to the same spots on the DNA of other fish, can reveal if they are from the same population or not.
Genetic markers are being employed to study the human genome. The process, sometimes referred to as DNA fingerprinting in humans, could be called DNA "fin-printing" for fish when a bit of tissue from a fin is used for the analysis.
Prior to genetic markers, fisheries scientists primarily relied on capturing young fish, putting metal or plastic tags on them and then releasing them in hopes they would be caught by a fisherman willing to return the tags to scientists.
Discerning which rivers and lakes salmon came from can be crucial when, for instance, countries negotiate fishing agreements or local managers decide if they should curtail fishing because high numbers of
|Contact: Sandra Hines|
University of Washington