Use of fatty acid profiles to monitor the escapehistory of farmed Atlantic salmon
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAquaculture Environment Interactions 2015, 7:1-13 10.3354/aei00132
Farmed Atlantic salmon can escape from fish farms at various stages of their life, from juveniles to large mature fish. Escapees that enter rivers to spawn pose a threat to the genetic integrity of wild populations. Knowledge about the timing of these escapes can provide important information for wildlife management and the aquaculture industry, enabling them to prevent or mitigate the negative impacts of escapees. Farmed salmon food has a high content of terrestrial lipids; thus, we used fatty acid (FA) profiling to monitor the escape history of farmed salmon. Escaped salmon captured in rivers (n = 251) presented a wide range of FA profiles that we used to classify the fish as (1) early-escaped wild-like fish that were assumed to have escaped at smolt or early post-smolt stage (24%), (2) recently escaped fish with high levels of FAs typically found in commercial salmon food (61%) and (3) intermediate escapees whose FA profiles lay between those 2 groups (15%). To estimate the size at escape of the intermediate escapees, we performed a feeding experiment that monitored the development of FA profiles after a shift in diet from terrestrial to marine lipids. Most intermediate escapees appeared to have escaped when they were <3 kg, and ranged from 3 to 11 kg when recaptured in rivers. We conclude that FA profiling is a promising tool to monitor escape histories, and that the proportion of post-smolt escapees in this study was high compared to official escape statistics which include very few reports of young fish escaping.