Scientists have found that hatchery salmon have different genes from their wild brothers. It appears that only within one generation there are hundreds of changes that occur on the genetic level.
Oregon State University researchers have found over seven hundred genetic differences in the steelhead trout salmon. They were helped by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife from Oregon in order to compare the wild fish with the ones born and raised in farms. The lead study-author, Mark Christie, has declared that his team noticed that hundreds of changed genes were implicated in metabolism, healing and immunity. This can only prove the adaptation of the fish to the crowded conditions in hatcheries.
The statement was further proven by DNA evidence and the results were published in the Nature Communications journal last Wednesday. More precisely, the scientists compared the offspring of wild and hatchery fish and discovered an astonishing 736 genetic differences. The theory of these differences has existed for a long time, because animals adapt in numerous ways to their environments, a fact proven by the reproduction and survival gaps between the two categories of fish. Hatchery fish have more difficulties reproducing when they are released into the wild compared to their native brothers.
As Michael Blouin, one of the authors of the study, has stated,
“What is important is that this work is a step towards trying to figure out which traits are under strong selection in the hatchery, and what hatchery conditions exacerbate that selection.”
This seems to settle the matter of genetically altered fish in hatcheries, and only after one generation. Blouin has explained that because fish hatcheries are artificial environments, they cause the pressure of strong natural selection. In such farms salmon are crowded like sardines in a can. More than often they are contained by open nets, and these two factors lead to contamination and diseases.
Numerous conservationists are worried about the bad conditions in fish farms, and this study will help them prove that people need to take measures. Hatchery owners have to improve these places in order to breed salmon that are not genetically modified. This may also help restore the numbers of fish in the wild, since its population has greatly decreased.
The fact that hatchery salmon have different genes from their wild brothers might not come as a big surprise, but now we have standing proof that we need to take measures to restore the natural balance.
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