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Considering the broad terms of reference given to the Consultation, and the diversity of recommendations which arose from the discussion, the participants agreed to group their recommendations according to the differing audiences to which each was primarily addressed. The groups agreed upon are as follows:

  1. International Organizations
  2. Governments
  3. Aquaculturists and Managers of Fisheries
  4. Conservationists
  5. Research Scientists

Much of the immediate impetus for holding the Consultation came from the continuing work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to develop a global strategy for the conservation of genetic resources. For this reason the Consultation gave particular attention to activities that are needed to develop and implement a global strategy of conservation of fish genetic resources. Many of the following recommendations, in all categories, were formulated to contribute to the development of a global strategy, as proposed by UNEP, for long-term conservation. The first set of recommendations, addressed to the international organizations, is particularly aimed at developing institutional support for programmes of genetic resources conservation. In this instance, additional details are provided in the appendixes. Similarly those for scientists are primarily concerned with providing support for such strategies.

The group also considered more immediate actions for effectively managing the present use of aquatic resources. Recommendations concerning such actions are mostly grouped under those directed toward governments and to individual fishery managers and aquaculturists.

7.1 Recommendations Primarily for International Organizations

  1. FAO, through cooperative programmes with other international agencies, should promote “grass roots” awareness of genetic preservation concepts in the fishery/aquaculture communities at regional and national levels. These objectives could be met on the short term by development and distribution of training manuals and information documents which need to be followed up immediately by workshops.

  2. Biological criteria for the design and management of aquatic reserves need to be defined from genetic, ecological and demographic principles. A consultation of experts, with varied applied, experimental and theoretical backgrounds representing the critical areas of expertise, should be convened to define biological criteria for the design and management of aquatic reserves for preserving natural genetic stocks of fish and other aquatic organisms. The consultation should include genetic, ecological and demographic principles in their considerations.

  3. It is recommended that international centres be established, preferably on a regional basis, where corps of experienced researchers would (1) assemble basic biological and genetic data on exploited and potentially exploitable fish stocks, and (2) disseminate such information through catalogues, newsletters, etc., in order to provide more direct mechanisms at the international level for the resolution of biologically important problems and conflicts, particularly regarding the exploitation of fish species. Special attention would be given to sub-species components of resources shared by two or more nations, and to species which may be considered for introduction into different drainage basins or across national boundaries (see Appendix 2).

  4. Unesco and perhaps other international organizations such as FAO and IUCN, should consider establishment of a programme of education and training, at both national and regional levels, on genetic resource conservation/preservation in fish and other aquatic organisms. As a basis for its educational work, the programme should assemble baseline information (a) on the diversity and vulnerability of aquatic genetic resources, (b) on procedures for identifying vulnerable species and population, and (c) on appropriate methods assuring that information regarding vulnerability and direct threats comes to the attention of agencies competent to act (see Appendix 3).

  5. Acid rain is at present a particularly serious threat to genetic resources of aquatic organisms and a problem requiring international action. FAO and other private and public international organizations should encourage governments to negotiate appropriate protocols for the control of the amount of sulphur that is discharged into the atmosphere.

  6. The many international organizations for the regulation of fish stock exploitation (e.g., EIFAC, ICES, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, etc.) are encouraged in their efforts to prevent the extinction and genetic deterioration of valuable stocks.

7.2 Recommendations to Governments

  1. Introductions of new species into aquatic systems has often had serious consequences on existing resources. Governments which do not now have mechanisms to ensure that an objective analysis of risks precedes the introduction of an aquatic organism into national waters should take immediate steps to establish such mechanisms. Genetic, behavioural and ecological data, as well as potential for introduction of disease, should be included in the risk analysis. In this connexion, governments should be aware that the probability of escape of cultivated aquatic species (even those kept only for research purposes) is so high that intent to confine imported aquatic animals does not obviate the need for such risk assessment.

  2. Governments should consider urgently the establishment of fresh-water and marine reserves following principles which have been established for land reserves (see 7.1, Recommendation 2 and 7.4, Recommendation 2).

  3. Governments should insist that the potential impacts of planned hydroelectric and irrigation, and other development projects upon fisheries and fish genetic resources be evaluated at the earliest stages of consideration of such projects to ensure that there is opportunity to examine appropriate alternatives.

  4. Environmental alteration (by pollution, siltation and erosion, etc.) is generally a more important threat to the preservation of fish genetic resources than their direct exploitation. Governments wanting to protect these resources should make every effort to ensure that environmental damage to natural waters is minimized.

7.3 Recommendations to Aquaculturists and Fishery Managers

  1. Fish breeders should be concerned for the continuing fitness (viability, vigour, fecundity) of their stocks, and should maintain the effective population size, Ne, of the stocks at 50 or more for short-term breeding and culture programmes, and much more (ca. 500) for the protection of genetic variability within lines. Inbreeding techniques should be used only for specific genetic goals and only when strict genetic control is possible and can be used in conjunction with other selection programmes.

  2. Research aquabreeders and culturists should collect founder stocks from as wide a distribution as possible within the species range in their efforts at domestication. This is to ensure that domestication, at least in its initial stages, be based on the broadest genetic base as possible. These stocks should also be subjected to a wide variety of genetic analyses to determine that the founder group represents, more or less, the same species and that the individuals are chromosomally (genetically) compatible.

  3. Research on artificial propagation techniques, including those for in vitro fertilization and development, should be given high priority in order to aid programmes of genetic preservation during the initial stages of domestication. The use of specialized breeding techniques, such as gynogenesis, are being successfully applied in domesticating some species of fish and should be further developed as a part of efforts to bring new species or genetic groups under domestication.

  4. The efforts of aquabreeders, culturists and researchers should be directed not only at preserving and maintaining the present domesticated stocks of strains in culture units but also at preserving and maintaining the wild relatives of these genetic groups as valuable reservoirs of genetic variation. Further, it is important to document the process of domestication including the source and history of wild stocks.

  5. Research aquabreeders, culturists and fishery managers should be cognizant of the limitations of current methods for estimating genetic variation especially insofar as these techniques may be used for determining a priori which species, geographic population or groups are to be selected for domestication or for restocking natural waters.

  6. Hatcheries carrying out introduction or restocking programmes in natural areas should be cognizant of the fact that there may be genetic changes of natural ecosystems which result from using inbred populations. Such stocks are suitable only for “put and take” fisheries, and then only if they are not likely to breed with native stocks. They should also recognize the possible genetic and ecological consequences on natural fish stocks and fisheries of the use of genetically biased brood stocks collected from one area to generate seed for restocking another area.

  7. Aquabreeders, research aquaculturists and managers of natural fisheries should direct some of their efforts toward developing methodologies, proce dures and genetic breeding systems for the generation of suitable genetic groups for stocking deteriorated natural fisheries (especially inland ones). This effort should also involve methods to assess the productivity and survival of properties of the released group.

  8. Morphological, meristic and electrophoretic techniques should be used where appropriate to survey commercially exploited fish species to determine specific indicators of populations within each species. When populations can be identified by unique phenotypes or gene frequencies, they should be monitored to prevent overfishing of specific groups thereby reducing the probability of eliminating the genetic resources of unique populations.

  9. Previous groups have recommended that there be established an international system for designating strains and stocks of fishes used in aquaculture and hatcheries. Whereas some may feel it is still impractical to do this, we believe that breeders should begin this process for certain fish, for example, common carp, rainbow trout, Tilapia nilotica, and that the discussions could begin at a future international fish breeders or aquabreeders meeting. The FAO Plant Genetic Resources office could provide background based on their broad experience in the preservation of geneticaly and geographically defined natural races.

7.4 Recommendations Primarily for the Conservation Community

  1. There should be increased effort directed at identifying populations of exploited or endangered species, at solving the major taxonomic problems existing in some parts of the world (especially South America and Africa), and at understanding the role of fish species in the ecosystems in these areas.

  2. A series of international meetings should be planned over the next few years in order to define where and how marine and aquatic parts (Biosphere Reserves) should be established. Each meeting or working group should bring together regional and scientific expertise on a specific habitat. These should include, for example, mangrove, coral reef, brackish water, large tropical river and large tropical lake habitats. To facilitate the development of marine and aquatic parts, a working group should be established to discuss and determine sizes and geographic form of natural aquatic genetic reserves taking into account ecological, demographical and genetic criteria (see also Section 7.1, Recommendation 2 and Section 7.2, Recommendation 2).

  3. Assistance should be given to fish hobbyists and aquarium managers in maintaining stocks of rare or endangered species, as is already being done in zoos of birds and mammals, giving full attention to the need to maintain adequately large populations of each species.

  4. Consideration should be given to developing national or international monitoring schemes for fish, such as the wild trout and char watch at present being organized.

  5. There is a general need for identifying important geographic areas, species and their distributions in order to provide background for making decisions about where, what and when to begin any preservation programmes for potentially threatened fishes. Conservationists should cooperate with such agencies as the IUCN in cataloguing threatened fish genetic resources.

7.5 Recommendations Primarily for the Scientific Community

  1. Physiological “races” have been recognized for many years, yet we do not know whether physiological differences among fish populations are representative of genetic differences. Physiological variation is influenced by environmental variables making the genetic bases of these variables difficult to elucidate. Research on this problem is urgently needed.

  2. Monitoring the genetic variability of both natural and cultured fish populations would be advantageous for a number of reasons. However, it is not known if the different methods of ascertaining genetic variability are representative of genomic variance per se. Therefore, research in this area is also highly recommended. Correlations between electrophoretic, meristic and morphological variation should be examined in numerous fish species to determine which methods provide unbiased estimates of genetic variation within species. These studies should be supported, when possible, with artificially induced changes in genetic variation via inbreeding studies.

  3. Genetic (electrophoretic) monitoring of several fish species and populations during the entire course of their exploitation is deemed desirable for several reasons: e.g. (1) the possibility exists that similar patterns of change will be detected in different exploited populations; (2) biochemical correlates of changing age or size class structure might be found and used as indicators of overexploitation.

  4. Recent advances in genetic engineering techniques suggest that transfers of genetic information between unrelated fish species will be possible within the foreseeable future. Research in this area is to be encouraged because such developments will broaden the genetic resource base for fisheries.

  5. Research should be accelerated on the cryopreservation of fish sperm, ova and embryos.

  6. Extensive ecological and systematic (taxonomic) surveys are required in tropical regions where large fractions of ecosystems are poorly understood and a large fraction of species are undescribed.

  7. Research is needed on the controllability of sterile hybrids in relation to their impact on the ecosystem. It is particularly important to assess the possible genetic “leakiness” of “sterile” hybrid stocks and their possible impact on wild populations.

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