Partial-year Continuous Light Treatment Reduces Precocious Maturation in Age 1+ Hatchery–reared Male Spring Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Hatchery programs designed to conserve and increase the abundance of natural populations of spring Chinook Salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha have reported high proportions of males precociously maturing at age 2, called minijacks. High proportions of minijacks detract from hatchery supplementation, conservation and production goals. This study tested the effects of rearing juvenile Chinook Salmon under continuous light (LL) on minijack maturation in two trials. The controls were maintained on a simulated natural photoperiod for both trials. For trial 1, LL treatment began on the summer solstice 2019 or the autumn equinox 2019 and ended in late March 2020 (LL-Jun-Apr and LL-Sep-Apr, respectively). A significant reduction in the mean percent of minijacks (%MJ) was observed versus control (28.8%MJ) in both LL-Jun-Apr (5.4%MJ) and LL-Sep-Apr (9.3%MJ). Trial 2 was designed to evaluate whether stopping LL treatment sooner was still effective at reducing maturation proportions relative to controls. LL treatments began on the summer solstice 2020 and continued until the winter solstice (LL-Jun-Dec) or the final sampling in April 2021 (LL-June-Apr). LL-Jun-Dec tanks were returned to a simulated natural photoperiod after the winter solstice. Both photoperiod treatments showed a significant reduction in mean %MJ from the control (66%MJ): LL-Jun-Dec (11.6%MJ), LL-Jun-Apr (10.3%MJ). In both trials, minijacks had higher body weights, were longer and had increased condition factor when compared to females and immature males in all treatment groups at the final sampling. In both trials, there was little or no effect of LL treatment on fork length or body weight in immature males and females versus controls, but an increase in condition factor versus controls was observed. This study shows that continuous light treatment reduces minijack maturation in juvenile male spring Chinook Salmon and could provide an effective method for Spring Chinook Salmon hatcheries interested in reducing minijack production.
Hoffman, N.F., L.R. Medeiros, N.D. Graham, H.M. Nuetzel, A.L. Pierce, and J.J. Nagler. 2023. Partial-year continuous light treatment reduces precocious maturation in age 1+ hatchery–reared male spring Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Conservation Physiology 11(1). Online at https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coac085.