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A genetic assessment of bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) restoration efforts in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico Coastal Waters (USA)

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As part of a comprehensive bay scallop restoration plan in Florida, we implemented a genetic monitoring program to evaluate the impact of shellfish restoration. Restoration involved the deployment of hatchery-produced scallops in cages (the restoration stock), which created spawner aggregations in locations that exhibited low densities of wild scallops. The success of the restorations was evaluated by comparing the genetic composition of wild scallops before (pre-restoration samples) and after (assessment samples) each deployment. The effectiveness of this approach in determining the contribution of the restoration stock relied on a two-part mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) assay developed to differentiate between scallops produced by the restoration stock and those produced by the remnant wild population. Assessment scallops were sequenced initially for a 417 base-pair fragment (segment 2), and if the mtDNA sequence was found to be identical to that of any restoration-stock scallop, the assessment scallop was sequenced for an additional 462 base pairs (segment 1). We screened assessment samples from six locations in west-central Florida for evidence of a significant contribution from the restoration stock to the wild population, manifested as a significant increase in the frequency of the haplotypes diagnostic of the restoration stock. In the 3 years of monitoring, 23 of 512, 13 of 600, and 19 of 991 assessment- sample scallops collected from the vicinities of the three restoration locations had haplotypes identical to those of restoration-stock individuals. In all years, the assessment-sample frequencies of haplotypes characteristic of the restoration stock were not significantly different from prerestoration-sample frequencies. This absence of a detectable contribution based on genetic data contrasts with abundance data from one location, which suggests a dramatic increase in the abundance of scallops following the restoration effort.

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Correspondence to A. E. Wilbur.

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Wilbur, A.E., Seyoum, S., Bert, T.M. et al. A genetic assessment of bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) restoration efforts in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico Coastal Waters (USA). Conserv Genet 6, 111–122 (2005).

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