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Genetic assignment of fisheries bycatch reveals disproportionate mortality among Alaska Northern Fulmar breeding colonies

February 15, 2022

Global fisheries kill millions of seabirds annually through bycatch, but little is known about population-level impacts, particularly in species that form metapopulations. U.S. North Pacific groundfish fisheries catch thousands of Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis rodgersii) each year, making fulmars the most frequently caught seabird in federally managed U.S. fisheries. Here, we used genetic stock identification to assign 1,536 fulmars sampled as bycatch to one of four Alaska breeding colonies and quantified the similarity of bycatch locations at sea among colonies. We found disproportionately high bycatch from the Pribilof Islands (6% of metapopulation, 23% of bycatch), and disproportionately low bycatch from Chagulak Island (34% of metapopulation, 14% of bycatch). Overlap between fisheries and colony-specific foraging areas diverge more during the summer breeding season, leading to greater differences in bycatch susceptibility. Contemporary and historical gene flow likely contributes to low genetic differentiation among colonies (FST = 0.003–0.01), yet these values may not represent present connectivity. Our findings illustrate how genetic stock identification can link at-sea threats to colonies and inform management to reduce bycatch from impacted colonies.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Genetic assignment of fisheries bycatch reveals disproportionate mortality among Alaska Northern Fulmar breeding colonies
DOI 10.1111/eva.13357
Authors Diana S. Baetscher, Jessie Beck, Eric C. Anderson, Kristen Ruegg, Andrew M. Ramey, Scott Hatch, HannahRose M. Nevins, Shannon Fitzgerald, J Carlos Garza
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Evolutionary Applications
Series Number
Index ID 70229410
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB

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