I was reading an article this weekend which mentioned one of the big advances in fishery science, the ability to analyze the DNA of a particular fish and determine if it is a pure bred fish, or has some degree of hybridization. The article in the Orlando Sentinel details the efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (say that fast 10 times) to be certain that they are only stocking pure strain Florida bass in their lakes in order to protect the genetic integrity of their native bass population. As the article mentions, “researchers discovered a few years ago that Florida bass were crossbreeding with Northern bass, potentially compromising the trophy fish.” Very cool science and a worthy and respectable effort.
But I also remembered reading in a couple stories related to some of these new state record fish that they were going to have to get blood samples and do some testing. In particular, the “almost” new Tennessee state record largemouth bass stood out in my mind, as the W2F article on it mentioned that the fish was released, partly due to the fact that the efforts needed to validate the fish, including ”blood samples, certified scales, 2 witnesses, dorsal fin clippings, and more,” might likely result in the death of the fish.
What I’m curious about is now that we have the ability to determine even small amounts of genetic cross breeding, and since some degree of hybridization among basses is a very real possibility, what level of genetic introgression would invalidate a new state record? What percentages separate a meanmouth, from a smallmouth, from a spot in Missouri? If a new Tennessee state record spotted bass was caught, but it had some smallmouth genes in it, would it no longer be a record? If a new state record largemouth in Florida was caught, but it turned out to be some type of hybrid between the Northern and Florida strains, would it be a record with an asterick?
We now have the knowledge and ability to ask and determine the answer to these type of questions. With the spreading of bass across the entire country, and several species of bass in many waters, is this a controversy we’ll be hearing more about in the future?