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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 496:181-196 (2014)  -  DOI:

Theme Section: Tracking fitness in marine vertebrates

Evaluating the influence of environmental factors on yearling Chinook salmon survival in the Columbia River plume (USA)

I. G. Brosnan1,*, D. W. Welch2, E. L. Rechisky2, A. D. Porter2

1Cornell University, 4122 Snee Hall, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA
2Kintama Research Services, 10-1850 Northfield Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9S 3B3, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The impact of oceanographic processes on early marine survival of Pacific salmon is typically estimated upon adult return, 1 to 5 yr after ocean entry, and many 1000s of kilometers after initial exposure. Here, we use direct estimates of early marine survival obtained from acoustic-tagged yearling Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha that entered the Columbia River plume (USA) after migrating down the river and then north to the coastal waters off Willapa Bay, Washington. Plume residence time averaged 7 d, and was of such short duration that predation, rather than feeding and growth conditions, was the likely primary cause of mortality. Plume survival ranged from 0.13 to 0.86, but was stable when scaled by plume residence time, and we find that a simple exponential decay model adequately describes plume survival. Plume survival, and perhaps adult returns, could be improved by reducing plume residence time if the drivers controlling residence time were amenable to management control. However, we show that a statistical model of plume residence time that includes only sea-surface temperature far outperforms models that include river discharge and coastal upwelling. Timing hatchery releases using marine environmental forecasts could potentially improve smolt survival by minimizing their residence time in regions of poor survival. Acoustic telemetry may be used to evaluate the value and effectiveness of such approaches.

KEY WORDS: Juvenile salmon · Juvenile survival · Columbia River plume · Acoustic telemetry · Environmental factors

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Cite this article as: Brosnan IG, Welch DW, Rechisky EL, Porter AD (2014) Evaluating the influence of environmental factors on yearling Chinook salmon survival in the Columbia River plume (USA). Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496:181-196.

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