Genomic tools for management and conservation of Atlantic Cod in a coastal marine protected area
Marine protected areas (MPAs) can serve as effective tools for the management and conservation of exploited marine species. The Gilbert Bay MPA in coastal Labrador was created to protect a genetically distinct population of Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua); however, decreases in abundance continue to occur potentially due to exploitation outside the MPA. We developed a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel to identify Gilbert Bay cod in areas outside MPA boundaries where mixing with offshore cod occurs. In total, 361 individuals from Gilbert Bay, surrounding areas, and offshore were genotyped for 10,913 SNPs. Using FST rankings and guided regularized random forest, we selected 23 SNPs that together generate 100% accuracy in individual assignment and accurately estimate the proportion of Gilbert Bay cod in fishery samples from sites outside MPA boundaries: on average, fishery samples included 17.3% Gilbert Bay cod. Estimates of effective population size for the Gilbert Bay population ranged from 655 to 1,114. Our findings demonstrate the power of using genomic approaches for management of an exploited marine species and enhancing the design of MPAs.
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