The application of population genomics to fisheries managementInternal

Activity Overview

Type: Foresight Workshop
Start Date: May 8, 2017
End Date: May 10, 2017
Venue: Campus da Penha, University of Algarve, Faro
Website: Workshop website
Contact: Rita Castilho
E-mail: rcastil [at]
Funding Call: EuroMarine 2016 Call for Proposals
Decision Body: EuroMarine Steering Committee
Funds Granted: €5,000

Manager(s): Rita Castilho


Population genomics enables the identification of both neutral and adaptive markers; the former can provide information about connectivity among areas due to migration and drift and the latter about strategies of adaptation to changing environment/conditions due to selection. These insights can provide the basis for defining genetically isolated populations and/or locally-adapted management units and informing conservation strategies. While providing valuable opportunities for the profitable and sustainable exploitation of marine fish, as an emerging and dynamic field, the best practices and techniques to be applied, and their effective integration into fisheries management and marine conservation strategies are still being developed.


The Foresight Workshop is designed to bring together fisheries management practitioners, stakeholders involved in fisheries policy making and governance, as well as genomic scientists to facilitate interaction and promote synergistic activities aimed at improved stock monitoring, prediction, and management to ensure sustainability in response to naturally- and anthropogenically-induced changes to the marine environment.


This EuroMarine 2016 Foresight Workshop offers an important venue to bring together leaders and specialists in fisheries management and genomics to build a knowledge-platform to advance the use of cutting-edge genomic techniques in fisheries stock assessment and provide new methods and technological frameworks to inform fisheries management practices.

Expected Outcomes

Together, the team will put together their complementary expertise to produce a synthesis paper of the current status of the use of population genomics in fisheries management, its applicability, value, and limitations, and also provide a set of guidelines of best practice for obtaining fisheries-relevant data together with its correct interpretation and application in management plans. This synthesis will seek to find common ground and understanding between genomicists, fisheries management practitioners, and policy makers, and provide stratagems for improved collaboration and action.

The meeting was held in Faro, Algarve, Portugal from 8-10 May 2017. The workshop brought together fisheries experts and genomic scientists to facilitate interaction and promote synergistic activities aimed at improved stock monitoring, prediction, and management to ensure sustainability. Leading scientists such as Gary Carvalho (University of Bangor, UK), Ian R. Bradbury (Fisheries and Oceans, Canada), Stefano Mariani (University of Salford, UK), Jann T. Martinsohn (European Commission Joint Research Centre, Italy) and Shawn Narum (Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, USA) were the keynote speakers, as well as Cindy Lawley and Florian Gradle from Illumina, USA. The meeting was able to recruit an exceptional group of scientists because many scientists coming to the Working Group on Application of Genetics in Fisheries and Mariculture (WGAGFM) agreed to extend their stay. The Working Group of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) meeting had taken place in Olhão, Portugal, and was also organized by Rita Castilho (CCMAR).

The workshop had a participation of delegates from 14 countries, eight of which were from the EU. Of the 56 participants, the majority originated from Portuguese research institutions (46%), while United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and France had 21 participants in total.

Conclusions from all the presentations were discussed by speakers and the general audience at the end of the session. There was a consensus on the areas needed to be further explored in the future: It is of paramount importance to gather baseline biological data; There should be a balance in the future between i) developing of new techniques and ii) establishing existing ones to provide routine approved protocols to help fisheries management; Development of genomics to assist fishery management should take into account management goals and priorities: e.g. environmental sustainability. Needs coming from the policies should initiate research efforts; to attain these objectives, it is imperative to improve the communication between geneticists and those involved in the assessment and management of fisheries.

Across the different presentations, some recurrent themes and issues were discussed. Among them is the difficulty in knowledge transfer from researchers to managers and policy makers. Also covered was the barrier of “technical language”, the mismatch between the level of detail provided by researchers and that required by fisheries managers. It was generally agreed that researchers should try to meet the management requirements in terms of spatial scale of stock delineation, and that an interdisciplinary approach should be taken. It was also remarked that available biological, ecological and genetic data are still limited for many exploited marine species that spatio-temporal monitoring of population structure is needed.

Regarding some specifics of genomic approaches to fisheries management, one of the topics discussed was the level of genetic differentiation required to consider stocks as being different considering that the smaller the differences among them, the harder it might be to manage them (e.g. logistically). The use of outlier loci to discriminate stocks is generally being applied, but participants agreed that it is essential to understand the processes behind the signal to evaluate the biological relevance of the outlier loci.