Rethinking Strategies for Increasing Salmon Survival

New research by Dr David Welch and his team from Kintama Research Services shows that survival of Chinook salmon measured by a wide range of government agencies has fallen to ca. 1% for many regions along the North American West Coast. Within the Columbia River, the Snake River populations which are often singled out as exemplars of poor survival, are similar to most other regions. The size of the decline is too large to be compensated by freshwater habitat remediation or cessation of harvest, and too widespread to be driven by localized sources of mortality such as dams in the Columbia River or salmon farming in British Columbia. The team also calls for a systematic review to address the consistency and comparability of survival to adult return data. In particular, they identified major biases introduced into studies based on PIT tags in the Columbia River that omit the effects of harvest. These results have significant implications for informing conservation strategies to protect and restore this important species.

The paper is freely available from Wiley Online Library .

Summary for Policy Makers:
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Array recovery and redeployment

After 5.5 years of continuous operation, Kintama has recovered and redeployed the acoustic receiver arrays in the Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait areas of British Columbia. The previous arrays were designed to detect both 180 and 69 kHz acoustic tags. The redeployed arrays are located in nearly the same locations as before but optimize detection of the more powerful 69 kHz acoustic tags used in current studies. The equipment for these arrays is owned by the Ocean Tracking Network and the service events were funded by grants to Dr. Scott Hinch at the University of British Columbia from the B.C. Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Paper published in Animal Biotelemetry that reports the performance of a high-frequency acoustic array for tracking juvenile Pacific salmon in the coastal ocean

Acoustic transmitters keep getting smaller! We have just published a paper on the performance of an acoustic array we designed to detect the new, smaller, higher-frequency tags produced by Innovasea (formerly VEMCO Canada). The array was deployed in the Discovery Islands region of BC in 2015 and achieved 76% detection probability for 180 kHz tags implanted into migrating juvenile steelhead. Smaller tags are important because they allow studies on a larger fraction of the fish size spectrum (>95 mm), and reduce the probability of negative effects from the tag. Unfortunately, detection range and study duration are also reduced which introduces new challenges. Our array design balances performance with cost. We hope this work will assist other researchers in the use of this developing technology!

The paper is freely available from Springer Nature .

COVID-19 Update

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all KRS employees are working from home. We are available as usual by phone and email ( contact us). We’d like to wish you and your loved ones well during this difficult time.

NEW animation of adult Chinook salmon returning to the Fraser River in 2019

Kintama has released a movie animation to show the migration of adult Chinook salmon as they migrate around the south end of Vancouver Island on their return trip to the Fraser and other river basins.

With support from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia, 100 adult Chinook were acoustic-tagged in 2019 by our collaborator at UBC, Professor Scott Hinch, and his team near Port Renfrew, BC. The fish were detected on acoustic receiver arrays deployed by Kintama Research in Haro Strait and the Fraser River to track Fraser-bound Chinook. Other receiver arrays deployed by the Ocean Tracking Network, NOAA Fisheries, and Ocean Networks Canada provided additional location information for Fraser River stocks as well as Chinook returning to Puget Sound and other rivers.

Some of these fish really explored! For an example, click on ‘Tag 6312’ under the Display menu to see a single Fraser River Chinook which first milled around in the Strait of Juan de Fuca before heading deep into Puget Sound and then turning around and migrating into the Fraser River.

Kintama partners with the Province on a multi-year Cowichan Lake cutthroat trout study

Cowichan Lake is one of the most important fisheries on Vancouver Island, yet we have a poor understanding of the spatial ecology of its most sought after species, wild coastal cutthroat trout, or the degree to which fisheries regulations are appropriate or effective. With funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., and assistance from volunteer anglers, Kintama and the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development acoustic-tagged 42 cutthroat trout in October 2019 which will be monitored for up to 3 years by an array of acoustic receivers deployed throughout Cowichan Lake.

The acoustic-tagged fish plus an extra 38 (80 total) were also marked with brightly coloured Floy T-bar anchor tags that will be used to help separate natural from fishing mortality. Anglers are asked to remove the Floy tags and submit them to the ministry office at 2080A Labieux Rd in Nanaimo for a $100 reward (or photograph and email to Brendan.Anderson@gov.bc.ca).

An animation showing the movements of these fish up to the last data upload on Feb 28, 2020 is available here .

Erin Rechisky addresses members of Northwest RiverPartners

Dr. Erin Rechisky, Kintama’s Research Manager, was Guest Speaker at the Northwest RiverPartners 2019 Annual Meeting in Portland OR (https://nwriverpartners.org/). Her presentation “Coast-wide Decline in Chinook Salmon Return Rates” compared survival of Snake River Chinook to other rivers (mostly undammed) from southern Oregon to southeast Alaska.

Kintama’s President gives keynote speech in the U.K. to share experience on designing acoustic telemetry arrays

Dr. David Welch was the keynote speaker at the Salmonid Management Round the Channel (SAMARCH) workshop in Southhampton U.K. He drew on 20 years of experience using acoustic telemetry arrays for his presentation: “Lessons learned from working on large-scale marine tracking arrays”.

David Welch gives keynote speech at the 2019 BC Wildlife Federation Annual Meeting

Kintama’s CEO, Dr. David Welch, gave the keynote presentation for the Selective Fishing Forum of the BC Wildlife Federation Annual meeting: “The coast-wide collapse in marine survival of west coast Chinook and steelhead: simply a slow-moving catastrophe or a deeper failure?”. He presented data showing that only about 1% of Chinook salmon and steelhead smolts survive to adulthood for most populations along the Pacific coast between California and Southeast Alaska.

NEW paper on freshwater and early marine survival of Chilko Lake sockeye salmon

Kintama has published the results of a five-year study “Quantifying survival of age-2 Chilko Lake sockeye salmon during the first 50 days of migration ” in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. The article is available here.

In collaboration with Dr. Scott Hinch and his students at UBC, we used acoustic telemetry to investigate survival of age-2 sockeye salmon as they emigrated from Chilko Lake, British Columbia, Canada, to northeastern Vancouver Island (NEVI) from 2010 to 2014.