MEPS 392:179-192 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08227

Migration and swimming depth of Atlantic salmon kelts Salmo salar in coastal zone and marine habitats

Richard D. Hedger1,6,*, Daniel Hatin2, Julian J. Dodson1, François Martin1, Denis Fournier3, François Caron4, Fred G. Whoriskey5

1Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Québec G1K 7P4, Canada
2Direction de l’expertise Faune-Forêts-Territoires de l’Estrie-Montréal-Montérégie et de Laval-Lanaudière-Laurentides, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 201 Place Charles Le Moyne, Longueuil, Québec J4K 2T5, Canada
3Service de la faune aquatique, Direction de l’expertise sur la faune et ses habitats, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 880 Chemin Sainte-Foy, Québec, Québec G1S 4X4, Canada
4Direction de l’aménagement de la faune du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec, 3950 Boul. Harvey, Jonquière, Québec G7X 8L6, Canada
5Atlantic Salmon Federation, PO Box 5200, St. Andrews, New Brunswick E5B 3S8, Canada
6Present address: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tungasletta 2, Trondheim 7485, Norway

ABSTRACT: Factors influencing the migration and swimming depth of Atlantic salmon kelts Salmo salar L. within the York Estuary and Gaspé Bay (Québec, Canada), and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Gaspé Bay and the Strait of Belle Isle (Newfoundland, Canada) were studied using acoustic telemetry. In 2006 and 2007, a total of 49 kelts were tagged with acoustic transmitters equipped with depth sensors, released in the river delta leading into the estuary, and tracked using a fixed receiver array within the estuary and the bay. A large variation in migratory behavior existed, with some kelts making a direct, strongly oriented traverse across the estuary and bay, and others showing multiple changes in orientation. There was long-term residence (typically several weeks) in the river delta and rapid migration once kelts reached the estuary and bay resulting from seaward swimming, with a net seaward movement even on a flood tide. Diving was more frequent during daytime. It was hypothesized that diving may have been related to feeding and/or the identification of more temporally consistent sub-surface salinity gradients or current flow directions. The patterns of migration within the coastal zone were similar to those identified for smolts, implying a universal pattern of coastal zone migratory behavior in both smolts and kelts. Migration speed within the marine habitat was dependent on date of departure from Gaspé Bay, which in turn was dependent on the length of time kelts had remained in the delta. It was hypothesized that extended feeding within the delta allowed kelts to improve their physical condition, enabling them to migrate more rapidly in the marine habitat.


KEY WORDS: Telemetry · Migration · Diving · Atlantic salmon kelts


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Cite this article as: Hedger RD, Hatin D, Dodson JJ, Martin F, Fournier D, Caron F, Whoriskey FG (2009) Migration and swimming depth of Atlantic salmon kelts Salmo salar in coastal zone and marine habitats. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 392:179-192

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