, Volume 69, Issue 1-4, pp 275-285

Forensic DNA Analysis of Pacific Salmonid Samples for Species and Stock Identification

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Identification of salmonid tissue samples to species or population of origin has been conducted for over 20 forensic cases in British Columbia. Species identification is based on published sequence variation in exon and intron regions of coding genes. Identification of source populations or regions is carried out using microsatellite and major histocompatibility complex allele frequency data collected from populations throughout the species range and with standard genetic stock identification (GSI) methods. Regional contributions to mixture samples are estimated using maximum likelihood mixture analysis and classification of individual genotypes is carried out with Bayesian methods. DNA has been obtained successfully from salmon scale samples, fresh, frozen and canned tissue samples and bloodstains in clothing. Results from DNA analyses have been instrumental in a number of convictions. A major benefit has been cost savings resulting from the number of guilty pleas entered after disclosure to the defendant of results from genetic testing. In two cases, GSI analysis resulted in exoneration of suspects under investigation for possible illegal sales of Fraser River sockeye salmon by substantiating their claim that the fish originated from the Skeena River watershed. DNA analysis has generally corroborated the species and stock identification carried out by fishery officers, but has revealed that species identification of samples from sources such as restaurants and fish plants can be erroneous. Forensic DNA analysis has facilitated the conviction of those who purchase fish not caught under the authority of licence, thus bringing those who buy fish illegally as well as those involved in illegal harvest and sales within the scope of law enforcement.