The Ryukyu ayu Plecoglossus altivelis ryukyuensis is an endangered amphidromous fish that inhabits rivers in the Ryukyu Archipelago (Japan). Populations of the species have declined dramatically. Consequently, the Ryukyu ayu has been registered as a natural monument in Japan and monitoring surveys with direct catching are restricted legally. This restriction, unfortunately, makes monitoring of population abundances difficult and creates a barrier to both advancing understanding of the species’ status and the development of appropriate conservation plans. We developed a non-invasive monitoring methodology using eDNA analyses. We designed a specific quantitative PCR assay for the Ryukyu ayu using the mitochondrial ND4 region. Using this primer/probe set, we conducted eDNA analyses in three rivers on Amami-Ohshima Island. The DNA fragments were amplified from the eDNA extracted from natural water in each river. The numbers of DNA fragments detected were positively correlated with individual counts of fish obtained by visual snorkelling surveys. Our method does not contravene restrictions and facilitates abundance monitoring of this endangered fish species.
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