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A review of an emerging tool to estimate population parameters: the close-kin mark-recapture method

  • Casas, Laura
  • Saborido-Rey, Fran
Published Article
Frontiers in Marine Science
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Jul 11, 2023
DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1087027
  • Marine Science
  • Review


Knowing the number of individuals in a population is fundamental for the sustainable management of exploited marine resources but estimating this parameter is often extremely challenging, especially in large, highly mobile and dispersed populations. Abundance estimation traditionally relies on multiple data types that include the relationship between fishery catches and effort (Catch Per Unit Effort or CPUE), scientific research surveys and demographic models that are developed to estimate past and current stock dynamics, but uncertainty is often high. Close-kin mark-recapture (CKMR) is an alternative method for estimating abundance and other demographic parameters (e.g. population trend, survival rates, connectivity), using kinship relationships determined from genetic samples. This methodology is based on a simple concept - the larger the population the less likely to find relatives and vice versa - and was proposed two decades ago although regained considerable attention recently. Refinements in the statistical methodology and advances in high throughput sequencing methods have boosted the efficiency of genomic analysis, promising to revolutionize the field of fisheries stock assessments. In theory, it can be applied to almost any species, provided that there is sufficient information about the life-history/biology of the organism and that the populations are not so small as to be almost extinct or so large that finding relatives becomes extremely difficult. Thus, it has the potential to provide baseline data for the many exploited fish stocks that remain largely unassessed and to reduce uncertainty in those that are regularly evaluated. Here, we provide an overview of the method in the context of fisheries assessments, analyze the advances and synthetize the field studies published in the last five years. Moreover, we evaluate the readiness, viability and maturity of the method to infer demographic parameters in species spanning diverse life histories. We evaluate technical considerations and requirements for a successful application and analyze the main challenges and limitations preventing a broader implementation.

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