Comparison of infectious agents detected from hatchery and wild juvenile Coho salmon in British Columbia, 2008-2018
Infectious diseases are potential contributors to decline in Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) populations. Although pathogens are theoretically considered to pose higher risk in high-density rearing environments like hatcheries, there is no direct evidence that hatchery-origin Coho salmon increase the transmission of infectious agents to sympatric wild populations. This study was undertaken to compare prevalence, burden, and diversity of infectious agents between hatchery-reared and wild juvenile Coho salmon in British Columbia (BC), Canada. In total, 2,655 juvenile Coho salmon were collected between 2008 and 2018 from four regions of freshwater and saltwater in BC. High-throughput microfluidics qPCR was employed for simultaneous detection of 36 infectious agents from mixed-tissue samples (gill, brain, heart, liver, and kidney). Thirty-one agents were detected at least once, including ten with prevalence >5%. Candidatus Brachiomonas cysticola, Paraneuclospora theridion, and Parvicapsula pseudobranchiocola were the most prevalent agents. Diversity and burden of infectious agents were substantially higher in marine environment than in freshwater. In Mainland BC, infectious burden and diversity were significantly lower in hatchery smolts than in wild counterparts, whereas in other regions, there were no significant differences. Observed differences in freshwater were predominantly driven by three parasites, Loma salmonae, Myxobolus arcticus, and Parvicapsula kabatai. In saltwater, there were no consistent differences in agent prevalence between hatchery and wild fish shared among the west and east coasts of Vancouver Island. Although some agents showed differential infectious patterns between regions, annual variations likely contributed to this signal. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that hatchery smolts carry higher burdens of infectious agents than conspecific wild fish, reducing the potential risk of transfer to wild smolts at this life stage. Moreover, we provide a baseline of infectious agents in juvenile Coho salmon that will be used in future research and modeling potential correlations between infectious profiles and marine survival.