Contrasting patterns in growth and survival of Central Valley fall run Chinook salmon related to hatchery and ocean conditions
The objective of this study was to determine important ocean and hatchery covariates influencing early growth and survival of Central Valley fall run Chinook salmon. We used a dataset of recaptured coded wire tagged hatchery Chinook salmon to estimate early growth and cohort survival. Ocean conditions during the period of early ocean entry were based on output from a coupled physical-biogeochemical model configured for the broader California Current region. We built generalized additive and generalized linear models to describe growth and survival and used Akaike Information Criterion (AICc) model selection to determine which hatchery and ocean covariates related best to response variables. With regards to hatchery covariates, growth was best explained by release location, while survival was best explained by release weight and hatchery of origin. The ocean conditions included in the best models for both growth and survival included diatoms, predatory zooplankton, temperature, and currents. We observed the highest rates of salmon survival when in situ physical ocean conditions were indicative of relaxation events. For all four ocean covariates, the response curves illustrated opposite patterns between growth and survival models. This result implies that during periods of low survival, juvenile salmon were either 1) growing at a faster rate, or 2) growth appeared to increase because smaller fish had a higher mortality rate than larger fish. The first explanation would imply density-dependence, whereas the second explanation would imply size-selective mortality. These alternatives have implications on hatchery practices including salmon size at release and number of salmon in release groups.