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The one that did not get away: individual assignment using microsatellite data detects a case of fishing competition fraud

Primmer Craig R. , Mikko T. Koskinen , Jorma Piironen

Abstract

Assignment of an individual to the population from which it most probably originated based on its multilocus genotype has been widely applied in recent years. In this study, individual assignment based on microsatellite data was used to identify a case of fishing competition fraud. Despite the fact that the true population of origin was most probably not among the reference populations, recent modifications of the assignment tests were used in confidently excluding (p < 0.0001) the possibility of a 5.5 kg salmon (Salmo salar) originating from the fishing competition location, Lake Saimaa (south-east Finland). In fact, the probability of the suspect salmon originating from one of the regions that supply most of Finland's fish markets was found to be over 600 times higher than it originating from Lake Saimaa. When presented with this evidence, the offender confessed to purchasing the salmon at a local fish shop and criminal charges were laid. This study emphasizes the potential practical application of the individual assignment procedure, in particular the usefulness of confidently excluding populations as the origin of an individual. A similar strategy could be also used, for example in suspected cases of illegal poaching, in order to assign or exclude individuals from originating from a claimed population.

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