Rapid expansion of an enhanced stock of chum salmon and its impacts on wild population components
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- Zhivotovsky, L.A., Fedorova, L.K., Rubtsova, G.A. et al. Environ Biol Fish (2012) 94: 249. doi:10.1007/s10641-011-9873-4
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A harvested stock of chum salmon homing to Kurilskiy Bay, Iturup Island, consists of two genetically distinct river populations that reproduce in two rivers that drain into the bay and are characterized by limited gene flow. One of these is small and can be regarded as wild, whereas the other is much larger and, until recently, was composed of naturally reproducing components spawning in the river’s mainstem and tributaries, with almost no hatchery reproduction during the past two decades. The only human impact on reproduction of the chum salmon stock was regulation of the escapement, with officially accepted limits to avoid ‘over-escapement’. Recently the hatchery began to release a large amount of chum salmon juveniles. As confirmed by data on variation in both age composition and microsatellite DNA, first-generation hatchery-origin fish that returned from the first large releases occupied spawning grounds and presumably competed directly with, and potentially displaced wild fish. The most dramatic example is a genetically distinct beach-spawning form of chum salmon that was swamped by much more numerous hatchery-origin fish of the river-spawning form. In order to restore and support naturally reproduced population components, careful estimation of the carrying capacity of natural spawning grounds is necessary with efforts to increase escapement to these habitats. We also recommend concerted efforts to restore and conserve a unique beach-spawning population of chum salmon. We further recommend development of a marking program for direct estimation of straying and evaluation of ecological and genetic impacts of hatchery fish on neighboring wild and natural populations.