A baseline for the genetic stock identification of Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus, in ICES Divisions 6.a, 7.b-c

Edward D. Farrell*, Leif Andersson, Dorte Bekkevold, Neil Campbell, Jens Carlsson, Maurice W. Clarke, Afra Egan, Arild Folkvord, Michaël Gras, Susan Mærsk Lusseau, Steven Mackinson, Cormac Nolan, Steven O'Connell, Michael O'Malley, Martin Pastoors, Mats E. Pettersson, Emma White

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Atlantic herring in International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Divisions 6.a, 7.b-c comprises at least three populations, distinguished by temporal and spatial differences in spawning, which have until recently been managed as two stocks defined by geographical delineators. Outside of spawning the populations form mixed aggregations, which are the subject of acoustic surveys. The inability to distinguish the populations has prevented the development of separate survey indices and separate stock assessments. A panel of 45 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, derived from whole-genome sequencing, were used to genotype 3480 baseline spawning samples (2014-2021). A temporally stable baseline comprising 2316 herring from populations known to inhabit Division 6.a was used to develop a genetic assignment method, with a self-assignment accuracy greater than 90%. The long-term temporal stability of the assignment model was validated by assigning archive (2003-2004) baseline samples (270 individuals) with a high level of accuracy. Assignment of non-baseline samples (1514 individuals) from Divisions 6.a, 7.b-c indicated previously unrecognized levels of mixing of populations outside of the spawning season. The genetic markers and assignment models presented constitute a 'toolbox' that can be used for the assignment of herring caught in mixed survey and commercial catches in Division 6.a into their population of origin with a high level of accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number220453
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Fisheries
  • Management
  • Genetic assignment
  • Stock identification
  • Northwest herring
  • West of Scotland herring


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