Migration of Pacific Rim Chum Salmon on the High Seas: Insights from Genetic Data
Wild stocks of chum salmon, Oncorhynchus keta, have experienced recent declines in some areas of their range. Also, the release of hatchery chum salmon has escalated to nearly three billion fish annually. The decline of wild stocks and the unknown effects of hatchery fish combined with the uncertainty of future production caused by global climate change have renewed interest in the migratory patterns of chum salmon on the high seas. We studied the composition of high-seas mixtures of maturing and immature individuals using baseline data for 20 allozyme loci from 356 populations from throughout the Pacific Rim. Composition estimates were made from three time series. Two of these time series were from important coastal migratory corridors: the Shumagin Islands south of the Alaska Peninsula and the east coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The third was from chum salmon captured incidentally in the Bering Sea trawl fishery for walleye pollock. We also analyzed geographically dispersed collections of chum salmon captured in the month of July. The time series show dynamic changes in stock composition. The Shumagin Island corridor was used primarily by Northwest Alaskan and Asian populations in June; by the end of July stocks from the Alaska Peninsula and southern North America dominated the composition. The composition along the Kamchatka coast changed dramatically from primarily Russian stocks in May to primarily Japanese stocks in August; the previously undocumented presence of stocks from the Alaska Peninsula and Gulf of Alaska was also demonstrated. Immature chum salmon from throughout the Pacific Rim, including large proportions of southern North American stocks, contributed to the Bering Sea bycatch during the months of September and October. The migration routes of North American stocks is far more widespread than previously observed, and the Bering Sea is an important rearing area for maturing and immature chum salmon from throughout the species' range.