Alosine Genetic Stock Identification and Tissue Repository

Science Center Objects

American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), Blueback Herring (Alosa aestivalis), and Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus; collectively “alosines”) once supported large fisheries along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. However, impassable migration barriers, declines in habitat quality, and exploitation have led to declines in many spawning populations. Substantial resources have been invested to support the recovery of alosine populations, yet results have been mixed. For example, some fish passage projects have resulted in large increases in populations, whereas others have had disappointing results – suggesting that other factors may be inhibiting recovery. 

As anadromous fishes, alosines spend much of their life history in estuarine and marine environments, where they may form mixed stock aggregations and where they are sometimes captured as bycatch in other fisheries. There is a critical need to be able to distinguish among populations or management units when individuals are encountered away from natal areas. An enhanced understanding of stock composition will provide critical information on the status and trends of specific populations and offer much needed insight into how fisheries bycatch may be impacting recovery efforts. 

We will use genomic markers such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to build and expand genomic baseline information for all three species. A SNP baseline has already been developed for Blueback Herring and Alewife, which we will augment with additional samples to further characterize populations. We plan to develop a new SNP panel and genomic baseline for American Shad, which should provide enhanced resolution of stock structure, greater repeatability, and cost savings when compared to previous genetic analyses using microsatellite markers.

Sample Submission Protocol

This project is currently in its early stages. At the present time, we are reaching out to potential collaborators who can help collect samples of the three alosine species throughout their ranges. If you may have the opportunity to collect tissue samples and would like to support the project, please contact Miluska Olivera Hyde at

There are two different protocols depending on if the samples are fresh or have been previously frozen. In addition collaborators are encourage to download and fill out the data sheet form.

Once sampling has been completed, please mail samples to:
    Miluska Olivera-Hyde
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Eastern Ecological Science Center at the Leetown Research Laboratory 
    11649 Leetown Road
    Kearneysville, WV 25430

Sample information should be recorded using this spreadsheet and emailed electronically to

This information will be leveraged to:

  1. assess population genetics at local, regional, and range-wide scales by estimating genetic diversity, effective population size, and gene flow among populations, and
  2. determine the composition of mixed-stock aggregations, such as those that occur in fisheries bycatch. We will assess the relative abundance of specific stocks in fisheries bycatch and use landings data to infer the impact to populations. Our genomic baselines will also allow us to identify the populations that may be most vulnerable (small effective population size, low diversity, and/or extensive family structure) as well as those that are most robust. Moreover, the genomics data we generate may help identify populations suitable as broodstock sources for restoration efforts. This information will support the management needs of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and fisheries management agencies.