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Detecting the presence of escaped farmed Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland using environmental DNA



Escaped farmed Atlantic salmon represent a continued challenge for aquaculture management and wild salmon conservation. Attempts to detect farm escapees are often expensive, time consuming, and ineffective. The use of environmental DNA (i.e., eDNA) represents an alternative approach to detect and quantify the distribution of escapees, potentially allowing highly effective and targeted management actions. The goal of PARR-2019-NL-02 is to develop eDNA-based approaches to quantify the presence and scale of escaped farmed salmon in rivers in southern Newfoundland to better inform management decisions and mitigation strategies. The three objectives are: 1) to develop targeted markers (mitochondrial and nuclear) suitable for discriminating wild and domestic and North American and European-strain salmon using environmental water samples; 2) to validate and explore the sensitivity and stability of these markers; and 3) to apply these tools to samples collected. Sites of interest are Placentia Bay prior to the introduction of European-strain farmed salmon, as well as throughout southern Newfoundland (where aquaculture is present) and northern Newfoundland (where no aquaculture is present). Currently, salmon production is increasing in southern Newfoundland, including the use of European-strain salmon, and this research will directly evaluate the spatial and temporal distribution of escaped salmon in the region.

Program Name

Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR)



Principal investigator

Ian Bradbury
Research scientist, Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre, St. John’s, N.L.

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