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Genetic structure among populations east of United Kingdom and west of Scotland

Analysis of North Sea herring population structure using microsatellite molecular genetic markers.

In this study, we have examined genetic population structure across the major herring spawning aggregations in the North Sea and adjacent waters over two years, 2002 and 2003. We analysed 1660 spawning individuals across 9 microsatellite loci. Data were analysed using several approaches: taking into account the effect of location, year-class and sex, as well as pooling all individuals together, making no assumption as to the number of populations present in the dataset. Results suggest the presence of a genetically homogeneous unit off Northern Scotland, and a temporally stable pattern of isolation by distance determined predominantly by the divergence of the English Channel samples and, in 2003, by the Norwegian spring spawners.

Our data suggest that the current view of North Sea herring as a unit-stock might be adequate, but confirm the considerable degree of demographic independence of the herring populations in the English Channel. Despite major recent population collapses, genetic data indicated no evidence of bottlenecks affecting the genetic diversity of extant North Sea herring populations.

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