Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 2–3, pp 325–339 | Cite as

Meso-scale movement and mortality patterns of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead trout migrating through a coastal fjord

  • Michael C. MelnychukEmail author
  • Villy Christensen
  • Carl J. Walters


Early marine life is thought to be a critical period affecting recruitment of Pacific salmon populations, but movements and mortality patterns of juvenile salmon after ocean entry have been poorly documented. Transect surveys by boat with towed hydrophone and acoustic receiver, along with lines of stationary receivers, were used to quantify early ocean movement and mortality patterns of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead trout (O. mykiss) tagged with acoustic transmitters (>700 tagged). Salmon smolts showed no behavioural preference with respect to distance from shorelines while migrating through Howe Sound, a coastal fjord. There was no evidence of spatial bias in mortality locations in terms of distance either to shorelines or from the river mouth, suggesting that mortality locations were scattered soon after ocean entry rather than concentrated right at the river mouth. Movement patterns of some tags (annual estimates of 5–20% of smolts that survived the downstream migration) were suggestive of estuarine predation, with detected tags likely inside predator stomachs. Using only detection data from mobile transects, a distance-based mortality rate was estimated for coho smolts while accounting for imperfect detection efficiency of transect surveys. The estimate of 2.4% per km during the 40 km migration through the fjord was comparable to average annual mortality rates estimated using detection data from stationary acoustic receivers, but required pooling multiple years of data. This suggests that mobile transect surveys of tagged migrating fish are likely insufficient for estimating annual mortality rates, but mobile detection data can complement those from stationary receiver arrays to further refine mortality estimates and provide information about fish movement patterns between lines of stationary receivers. This work provides an important methodological comparison between biotelemetry approaches for migrating fishes as well as the most comprehensive description to date of spatial marine mortality patterns of juvenile coho salmon and steelhead trout.


Biotelemetry Active tracking Instantaneous mortality Migratory route Detection probability Survival 



We are indebted to many volunteers that assisted with mobile tracking surveys in Howe Sound: Line Bang Christensen, Natalie Ban, Dave Preikshot, Pablo Trujillo, Megan Bailey, Meaghan Darcy, Valeria Vergara, Erin Rechisky, Sherman Lai, Jodie Frisk, Peter Rossing, Dirk Zeller, Matt Richard, Ellen Bang Christensen, Ben Wilson, Dal Harper, Valerie Caron, Ross Thompson, Mary-Anne Lea, Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, Roseti Imo, Jennifer Jacquet, Kerrie O’Donnell, David O’Brien, Ian Hatton, Pi Jin-Liu, Steve Martell, William Walters, Dawit Tesfamichael, Andrea Rambeau, David Thomson, Jonathan Anticamara, Robyn Forrest, Chris O’Grady, Yajie Liu, Dale Marsden, Doug Sandilands, Jordan Rosenfeld, Brian Starzomski, Robert Ahrens, Greg Sharam, Rik Buckworth, Erik Parkinson, Art Tautz, and Lew Coggins. We thank the staff and scientists of Kintama Research Corporation and the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking Project for their work tagging fish, deploying stationary receivers, providing logistical support, and making detection data available. We thank the following researchers for graciously lending mobile tracking equipment: Fred Goetz (U.S.A.C.E.), Martin Castonguay (D.F.O), Jerry Ault (U. Miami), Mike Parsley (U.S.G.S.), Gilles Lacroix (D.F.O.), Mike Shane (H.S.W.R.I.), and Marlin Gregor (Sonotronics). Grant support for mobile tracking work was provided by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the FishAmerica Foundation, the British Columbia Pacific Salmon Forum, a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada strategic grant, and a Pew Fellowship to C.J.W. We thank three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael C. Melnychuk
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Villy Christensen
    • 1
  • Carl J. Walters
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Fisheries CentreUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.School of Aquatic & Fishery SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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