Testing for Delayed Mortality Effects in the Early Marine Life History of Columbia River Basin Yearling Chinook Salmon
Juvenile Snake River Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha pass through 8 major hydroelectric dams during their > 700 km migration to the sea, or are transported downriver to avoid these dams. Both of these anthropogenic processes may decrease fitness and lead to delayed mortality in the estuary and coastal ocean, and thus reduce the rate at which adults return to spawn. Using a large-scale telemetry array, we tested whether there was support for (1) hydrosystem-induced delayed mortality (hydro-DM) of yearlings migrating from the Snake River relative to yearlings migrating from the mid-Columbia River, and (2) transportation-induced delayed mortality (transport-DM) for transported Snake River yearlings relative to yearlings which migrated in-river. We also tested for differential early marine survival between yearlings migrating from the Snake and upper Columbia Rivers. In 2010, seaward migrating yearling Chinook were captured at dam bypasses and origin was based on capture location; in 2011, dam-caught fish were identified using genetic stock identification. Survival of all groups during the initial 750 km, >1 mo long migration through the estuary and coastal ocean to northwestern Vancouver Island ranged between 14 and 19% in 2010 and was lower in 2011 (1.5−8%). We found no support for hydro-DM, as survival of in-river migrating Snake and mid-Columbia River yearlings was indistinguishable. We found mixed results for our transportation study, with no support for transport-DM in 2010, and weak support in 2011. Our study provides further evidence that freshwater management strategies may not increase the rate of Chinook salmon returning to the Snake River if prior freshwater experience has no substantial influence on subsequent survival in the ocean.
Rechisky, E.L., D.W. Welch, A.D. Porter, J.E. Hess, and S.R. Narum. 2014. Testing for delayed mortality effects in the early marine life history of Columbia River Basin yearling Chinook salmon. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 496:159–180.