Study offers evidence that Hatchery Steelhead and Wild Steelhead significantly differ
For the ones concerned about wild steelhead, the hatchery-raised and wild steelhead don’t mix has been something they call common sense. Wild steelhead is a marvel and is found in abundance in rivers and streams. They move to oceans where they have to face stern conditions and staggering odds to survive.
The ones who manage to survive and come back to the rivers and streams where they were nurtured, pass on their exclusively adapted genetics to wild steelhead’s new generation.
For many people, it is the reason that mixing in millions of hatchery steelhead with our wild steelhead would certainly result into wild stocks degradation.
But, for long, hatchery proponents have argued that hatchery and wild steelhead don’t vary significantly at the genetic level. They say that inter-breeding the two stocks won’t be dangerous for the fitness of our wild steelhead stocks.
Published yesterdays in journal Nature Communications, a study has offered evidence that hatchery steelhead and wild steelhead not just differ genetically, but the variations are major. These differences can occur in a single generation, passing on to offspring.
Scientists Michael Blouin of Oregon State University and Mark Christie of Purdue University carried out the study backed by the Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They conducted the study on winter-run steelhead belonging to the Hood River in Oregon.
Hatchery steelhead is known as a domesticated species. Similar to other once-wild animals that moved to artificial environments, the unique circumstances of human-created environments resulted into genetic adaptations, some of which can occur quite rapidly.
The modifications resulted into populations that were more genetically suited to survive in the artificial environments as compared to the wild environment to which their species belong.
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