Lifetime success and interactions of farm salmon invading a native population

Ian A. Fleming, Kjetil Hindar, Ingrid B. Mjølnerød, Bror Jonsson, Torveig Balstad, Anders Lamberg

Abstract

Farm Atlantic salmon escape and invade rivers throughout the North Atlantic annually, which has generated growing concern about their impacts on native salmon populations. A large–scale experiment was therefore undertaken in order to quantify the lifetime success and interactions of farm salmon invading a Norwegian river. Sexually mature farm and native salmon were genetically screened, radio tagged and released into the River Imsa where no other salmon had been allowed to ascend. The farm fishes were competitively and reproductively inferior, achieving less than one–third the breeding success of the native fishes. Moreover, this inferiority was sex biased, being more pronounced in farm males than females, resulting in the principal route of gene flow involving native males mating with farm females. There were also indications of selection against farm genotypes during early survival but not thereafter. However, evidence of resource competition and competitive displacement existed as the productivity of the native population was depressed by more than 30%. Ultimately, the lifetime reproductive success (adult to adult) of the farm fishes was 16% that of the native salmon. Our results indicate that such annual invasions have the potential for impacting on population productivity, disrupting local adaptations and reducing the genetic diversity of wild salmon populations.