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Furey N.B.,University of British Columbia | Vincent S.P.,Seymour Salmonid Society | Hinch S.G.,University of British Columbia | Welch D.W.,Kintama Research Services Ltd
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Variability in animal migratory behavior is expected to influence fitness, but few empirical examples demonstrating this relationship exist. The initial marine phase in the migration of juvenile salmon smolts has been identified as a potentially critical life history stage to overall population productivity, yet how fine-scale migration routes may influence survival are unknown. Large-scale acoustic telemetry studies have estimated survival rates of outmigrant Pacific salmon smolts through the Strait of Georgia (SOG) along the British Columbian coastline to the Pacific Ocean, but these data have not been used to identify and characterize fine-scale movements. Data collected on over 850 sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) smolts detected at an array in the Strait of Georgia in 2004-2008 and 2010-2013 were analyzed to characterize migration routes and link movements to subsequent survival at an array 250 km further along the marine migration pathway. Both species exhibited disproportionate use of the most eastern route in the Strait of Georgia (Malaspina Strait). While many smolts moved across the northern Strait of Georgia acoustic array with no indication of long-term milling or large-scale east-to-west movements, large proportions (20-40% of sockeye and 30-50% of steelhead) exhibited a different behavior, apparently moving in a westward or counterclockwise pattern. Variability in migratory behavior for both species was linked to subsequent survival through the Strait of Georgia. Survival for both species was influenced by initial east-to-west location, and sockeye were further influenced by migration timing and duration of time spent near the northern Strait of Georgia array. Westward movements result in a net transport of smolts from Malaspina Strait to the Strait of Georgia, particularly for steelhead. Counterclockwise movements may be due to the currents in this area during the time of outmigration, and the higher proportion of steelhead smolts exhibiting this counterclockwise behavior may reflect a greater exposure to wind-altered currents for the more surface-oriented steelhead. Our results provide an empirical example of how movements can affect migration survival, for which examples remain rare in movement ecology, confirming that variability in movements themselves are an important part of the migratory process. Copyright: © 2015 Furey et al.

Balfry S.,University of British Columbia | Balfry S.,Center for Aquaculture and Environmental Research | Welch D.W.,Kintama Research Services Ltd | Atkinson J.,University of British Columbia | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Early marine migratory behaviour and apparent survival of hatchery-reared Seymour River steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) smolts was examined over a four year period (2006-2009) to assess the impact of various management strategies on improving early marine survival. Acoustically tagged smolts were released to measure their survival using estuary and coastal marine receivers forming components of the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) array. Early marine survival was statistically indistinguishable between releases of summer run and winter run steelhead races, night and day releases, and groups released 10 days apart. In 2009, the survival of summer run steelhead released into the river was again trialed against groups released directly into the ocean at a distance from the river mouth. Apparent survival was improved significantly for the ocean released groups. The health and physiological status of the various release groups were monitored in years 2007-2009, and results indicate that the fish were in good health, with no clinical signs of disease at the time of release. The possibility of a disease event contributing to early marine mortality was further examined in 2009 by vaccinating half of the released fish against common fish diseases (vibriosis, furunculosis). The results suggest that marine survival may be enhanced using this approach, although not to the extent observed when the smolts were transported away from the river mouth before release. In summary, direct experimental testing of different release strategies using the POST array to measure ocean survival accelerated the scientific process by allowing rapid collection of data which enabled the rejection of several existing theories and allowed tentative identification of several new alternative approaches that might improve early marine survival of Seymour River steelhead. © 2011 Balfry et al.

Chittenden C.M.,University of Tromso | Chittenden C.M.,University of British Columbia | Jensen J.L.A.,University of Tromso | Ewart D.,Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2010

As the timing of spring productivity blooms in near-shore areas advances due to warming trends in global climate, the selection pressures on out-migrating salmon smolts are shifting. Species and stocks that leave natal streams earlier may be favoured over later-migrating fish. The low post-release survival of hatchery fish during recent years may be in part due to static release times that do not take the timing of plankton blooms into account. This study examined the effects of release time on the migratory behaviour and survival of wild and hatchery-reared coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) using acoustic and coded-wire telemetry. Plankton monitoring and near-shore seining were also conducted to determine which habitat and food sources were favoured. Acoustic tags (n = 140) and coded-wire tags (n = 266,692) were implanted into coho salmon smolts at the Seymour and Quinsam Rivers, in British Columbia, Canada. Differences between wild and hatchery fish, and early and late releases were examined during the entire lifecycle. Physiological sampling was also carried out on 30 fish from each release group. The smolt-to-adult survival of coho salmon released during periods of high marine productivity was 1.5- to 3-fold greater than those released both before and after, and the fish's degree of smoltification affected their downstream migration time and duration of stay in the estuary. Therefore, hatchery managers should consider having smolts fully developed and ready for release during the peak of the near-shore plankton blooms. Monitoring chlorophyll a levels and water temperature early in the spring could provide a forecast of the timing of these blooms, giving hatcheries time to adjust their release schedule.© 2010 Chittenden et al.

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