Peer-reviewed articles

Origin of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) at sea in Icelandic waters

Authors: Olafsson, K., Einarsson, SM, Gilbey, J., Pampoulie, C., Hreggvidsson, GO, Hjorleifsdottir, S., Gudjonsson, S.

Version: ICES Journal of Marine Science

Publication year: 2016


The origin and life history of 186 Atlantic salmon caught at sea within Icelandic waters were investigated using microsatellites to assess the origin and scales and otoliths to assess freshwater and sea age. A total of 184 samples were aged using scales or otolithes or both. Most of the samples were from individuals in their first year at sea (72.8%). The freshwater age varied from 1 to 5 years with an average of 2.6 years. The most common freshwater age was 2 years (42%), with a further substantial proportion of 3-year-old fish (28%). Genetic assignment of individual fish to their most likely population of origin was performed using Bayesian genetic individual assignments with a baseline consisting of 284 Eastern Atlantic rivers and 466 sample sites genotyped at the 14 microsatellite. A total of 186 samples of salmon caught at sea were assigned to their origin. Eight samples, from post-smolts and caught close to land, were assigned as having come from Iceland. Of the remaining 178 samples, 121 individuals (68%) were from the Southern Group, ie from mainland Europe, the UK, and Ireland, 53 individuals (30%) were from the Northern Group, ie Scandinavia and Northern Russia, and 4 individuals were from Iceland (2%). Stock mixture proportions were estimated for four periods using ONCOR and cBAYES. Stock mixture analysis generally supported the individual assignments, but did not suggest a seasonal component to the distribution of salmon stocks. These results indicate that the sea south and east of Iceland are important as feeding areas for migrating Atlantic salmon, particularly for salmon originating in the UK, Ireland, and southern Europe. Furthermore, the lack of adult Icelandic fish so close to Iceland is remarkable and suggests that Atlantic salmon from Icelandic stocks are using different feeding grounds.

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