MEPS 487:163-175 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10353

Size, growth, and origin-dependent mortality of juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha during early ocean residence

Lindsay E. Woodson1,*, Brian K. Wells1, Peter K. Weber2, R. Bruce MacFarlane1, George E. Whitman3, Rachel C. Johnson3,4

1Fisheries Ecology Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 110 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, California 95060, USA
2Chemical Sciences, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California 94551
3Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
4US Bureau of Reclamation, Bay-Delta Office, Sacramento, California 95825, USA

ABSTRACT: Selective mortality during early life history stages can have significant population-level consequences, yet critical periods when selective mortality occurs, the strength of selection, and under what environmental conditions can be difficult to identify. Here, we used otolith microstructure and chemistry to examine the factors potentially linked to selective mortality of juvenile fall-run Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha from California’s Central Valley during early ocean residence. Back-calculated size and growth rates of the population were compared across 3 sample periods: as juveniles exited the San Francisco Bay estuary (estuary-exit), after their first month at sea (summer-ocean) and 5 mo after ocean entry (fall-ocean). We compared mortality dynamics during years of exceptional recruitment (addition of individuals to harvestable population; 2000 and 2001) to a year of poor recruitment (2005). Otoliths from 2005 were also analyzed for sulfur isotopes to discern hatchery from naturally spawned stock. Significant size and growth-rate selective mortality were detected during the first month at sea in the low recruitment year of 2005, but not in 2000 and 2001. Individuals that were larger and growing faster during freshwater and estuarine rearing were more likely to survive to summer and fall in the low recruitment year. There was a slight, but insignificant, increase in the proportion of hatchery to naturally spawned individuals from estuary-exit to fall-ocean, suggesting that fish from neither origin were overwhelmingly favored. Our results suggest that Central Valley Chinook salmon can be subject to significant size and growth-rate selective mortality resulting in low adult abundance, and this mortality appears independent of origin.


KEY WORDS: Critical period · Otolith · California Current · Hatchery · Gulf of the Farralones


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Cite this article as: Woodson LE, Wells BK, Weber PK, MacFarlane RB, Whitman GE, Johnson RC (2013) Size, growth, and origin-dependent mortality of juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha during early ocean residence. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 487:163-175. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10353

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