Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) population structure in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Sunnvør í Kongsstovu, Svein-Ole Mikalsen, Eydna í Homrum, Jan Arge Jacobsen, Thomas D. Als, Hannes Gislason, Paul Flicek, Einar Eg Nielsen, Hans Atli Dahl

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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The Atlantic herring Clupea harengus L has a vast geographical distribution and a complex population structure with a few very large migratory units and many small local populations. Each population has its own spawning ground and/or time, thereby maintaining their genetic integrity. Several herring populations migrate between common feeding grounds and over-wintering areas resulting in frequent mixing of populations. Thus, many herring fisheries are based on mixed populations of different demographic status. In order to avoid overexploitation of weak populations and to conserve biodiversity, understanding the population structure and population mixing is important for maintaining biologically sustainable herring fisheries. The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic population structure of herring in the Faroese and surrounding waters, and to develop genetic markers for distinguishing between four herring management units (often called stocks), namely the Norwegian spring-spawning herring (NSSH), Icelandic summer-spawning herring (ISSH), North Sea autumn-spawning herring (NSAH), and Faroese autumn-spawning herring (FASH). Herring from the four stocks were sequenced at low coverage, and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were called and used for population structure analysis and individual assignment. An ancestry-informative SNP panel with 118 SNPs was developed and tested on 240 individuals. The results showed that all four stocks appeared to be genetically differentiated populations, but at lower levels of differentiation between FASH and ISSH than the other two populations. Overall assignment rate with the SNP panel was 80.7%, and agreement between the genetic and traditional visual assignment was 75.5%. The NSAH and NSSH samples had the highest assignment rate (100% and 98.3%, respectively) and highest agreement between traditional and genetic assignment methods (96.6% and 94.9%, respectively). The FASH and ISSH samples had substantially lower assignment rates (72.9% and 51.7%, respectively) and agreement between traditional and genetic methods (39.5% and 48.4%, respectively)
Original languageEnglish
Article number106231
Number of pages10
JournalFisheries Research
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Atlantic herring
  • Low coverage sequencing
  • Population structure
  • Stock assignment


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