Skip to main content

Marine behavior and dispersal of an important subsistence fish in Arctic Alaska, the Dolly Varden

Abstract

In Arctic Alaska the anadromous char, Dolly Varden Salvelinus malma is a highly important subsistence fish to local residents living subsistence-based lifestyles. While in the ocean, very little is known about the marine ecology of Dolly Varden. Therefore, to examine this species’ marine habitat occupancy, dispersal, and behavior, we attached pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) to Dolly Varden (n = 52) outmigrating from a river, which flows into the Arctic Ocean. Seven tagged fish demonstrated the first documented northwesterly dispersal to offshore areas of the Russian Chukchi Sea. While at sea, these fish demonstrated transits of 30–60 km·day−1, affinity for the first 5 m of the water column, and diel patterns in depth occupancy, while experiencing a thermal environment of generally 3–7 °C. Eight other fish likely occupied nearshore waters of northwestern Alaska. These nearshore dispersers all experienced highly fluctuating daily temperatures (0–15 °C), shallow depths (< 6 m), and appeared to quickly transit in a southerly direction. Because of its ability to rapidly transit broad areas of the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to its frequent occupation of shallow water, Dolly Varden may be exposed to increased emerging human activities in the Arctic Ocean, such as hydrocarbon development and shipping.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9

References

  1. Armstrong RH, Morrow JE (1980) The Dolly Varden char, Salvelinus malma. In: Balon EK (ed) Charrs: salmonid fishes of the genus Salvelinus. Dr. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague, pp. 99–140

    Google Scholar 

  2. Berline L, Spitz YH, Ashjian CJ, Campbell RG, Maslowski W, Moore SE (2008) Euphausiid transport in the western Arctic ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 360:163–178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Brett JR (1995) Locomotion. In: Groot CL, Margolis L, Clarke WC (eds) Physiological ecology of Pacific Salmon. UBC Press, Vancouver, pp. 79–85

    Google Scholar 

  4. Brette F, Machado B, Cros C, Incardona JP, Scholz NL, Block BA (2014) Crude oil impairs cardiac excitation-contraction coupling in fish. Science 346:772–776

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Burger CV, Finn JE, Holland-Bartels L (1995) Patterns of shoreline spawning by sockeye salmon in a glacially turbid lake: evidence for subpopulation differentiation. Trans Am Fish Soc 124:1–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chittenden CM, Fauchald P, Rikardsen AH (2013) Important areas for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) as estimated using a simple ambient-temperature approach. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 70:101–104

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Citta JJ, Quakenbush LT, Okkonen SR, Druckenmiller ML, Maslowski W, Clement-Kinney J, George JC, et al. (2014) Ecological characteristics of core-use areas used by Bering–Chukchi–Beaufort (BCB) bowhead whales, 2006–2012. Prog Oceanogr. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2014.08.012

    Google Scholar 

  8. Courtney MB (2015) Dispersal patterns and summer oceanic distribution of adult Dolly Varden from the Wulik River, Alaska, evaluated using satellite telemetry. M.S. Thesis.  University of Alaska Fairbanks, 106 pp

  9. Craig PC (1989) An introduction to anadromous fishes in the Arctic. Biol Pap Univ Alaska 24:27–54

    Google Scholar 

  10. DeCicco AL (1985) Inventory and cataloging of sport fish and sport fish waters of western Alaska with emphasis on Arctic char life history studies. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Annual Performance Report, 1984–1985

  11. DeCicco AL (1989) Movements and spawning of adult Dolly Varden char (S. malma) in Chukchi sea drainages of northwestern Alaska: evidence for summer and fall spawning populations. Physiol Ecol 1:229–238

    Google Scholar 

  12. DeCicco AL (1992) Long-distance movements of anadromous Dolly Varden between Alaska and the U.S.S.R. Arctic 45:120–123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. DeCicco AL (1997) Movements of postsmolt anadromous Dolly Varden in northwestern Alaska. In: Reynolds J (ed) Fish ecology in Arctic North America. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 19, Bethesda, pp. 175–183

    Google Scholar 

  14. Drenner SM, Clark TD, Whitney CK, Martins EG, Cooke SJ, Hinch SG (2012) A synthesis of tagging studies examining the behavior and survival of anadromous salmonids in marine environments. PLoS One 7:1–13

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Falkenhaug T, Tande KS, Semenova T (1997) Diel, seasonal and ontogenetic variations in vertical distributions of four marine copepods. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 149:105–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fechhelm RG, Bryan JD, Martin LR (1997) Summer growth patterns of northern Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) smolts from the Prudhoe bay region, Alaska. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54:1103–1110

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Fletcher GL, Kao MH, Dempson JB (1988) Lethal freezing temperatures of Arctic char and other salmonids in the presence of ice. Aquaculture 71:369–378

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Fortier M, Fortier L, Hattori H, Saito H, Legendre L (2001) Visual predators and the diel vertical migration of copepods under the Arctic sea ice during the midnight sun. J Plankton Res 23:1263–1278

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Godfrey JD, Stewart DC, Middlemas SJ, Armstrong JD (2015) Depth use and migratory behavior of homing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in Scottish coastal waters. ICES J Mar Sci 72:568–575

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Keating KA (1995) Mitigating elevation-induced errors in satellite telemetry locations. J Wildl Manag 59:801–808

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Lacroix GL (2013) Population-specific ranges of oceanic migration for adult Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) documented using pop-up satellite archival tags. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 70:1011–1030

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Magdanz JS, Braem NS, Robbins BC, Koster DS (2010) Subsistence harvests in Northwest Alaska, Kivalina and Noatak, 2007. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Subsistence, Technical Paper No. 354, Kotzebue

  23. Martin PD, Jenkins JL, Adams FJ, Jorgenson MT, Matz AC, Payer DC, Reynolds PE, et al (2009) Wildlife Response to Environmental Arctic Change: Predicting Future Habitats of Arctic Alaska. Report of the Wildlife Response to Environmental Arctic Change (WildREACH): Predicting Future Habitats of Arctic Alaska Workshop, 17–18 November 2008, Alaska: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  24. McDonald JH (2014) Handbook of biological statistics, 3rd edn. Spark House Publishing, Baltimore

    Google Scholar 

  25. Moore SE, George JC, Coyle KO, Weingartner TJ (1995) Bowhead whales along the Chukotka coast in autumn. Arctic 48:55–160

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Morita K, Morita SH, Fukuwaka M, Nagasawa T (2009) Offshore Dolly Varden charr (Salvelinus malma) in the north Pacific. Environ Biol Fish 86:451–456

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Morita K, Morita SH, Nagasawa T, Kuroki M (2013) Migratory patterns of anadromous white-spotted charr Salvelinus leucomaenis in eastern Hokkaido, Japan: the solution to a mystery? J Ichthyol 53:809–819

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Nielsen JL, Turner SM, Zimmerman CE (2011) Electronic tags and genetics explore variation in migrating steelhead kelts (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Ninilchik River, Alaska. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 68:1–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Pedersen S, Linn A (2005) Kaktovik 2000–2002 subsistence fishery harvest assessment. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Subsistence Management, Fishery Information Services Division, Federal Subsistence Fishery Monitoring Program, Final Project

  30. Pennell W, Barton BA (1996) Principles of salmon culture. Elsevier, Amsterdam

    Google Scholar 

  31. Prowse TD, Wrona FJ, Reist JD, Hobbie JE, Levesque LMJ, Vincent WF (2006) General features of the Arctic relevant to climate change in freshwater ecosystems. Ambio 35:330–338

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Reddin DG, Downtown P, Fleming IA, Hansen LP, Mahon A (2011) Behavioral ecology at sea of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) kelts from a newfoundland (Canada) river. Fish Oceanogr 20:174–191

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Reist JD, Wrona FJ, Prowse TD, Power M, Dempson JB, Beamish RJ, King JR, et al. (2006a) General effects of climate change on Arctic fishes and fish populations. Ambio 35:370–380

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Reist JD, Wrona FJ, Prowse TD, Power M, Dempson JB, King JR, Beamish RJ (2006b) An overview of effects of climate change on selected Arctic freshwater and anadromous fishes. Ambio 35:381–387

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Rikardsen AH, Diserud OH, Elliott JM, Dempson JB, Strurlaugsson J, Jensen AJ (2007) The marine temperature and depth preferences of Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) and sea trout (Salmo trutta), as recorded by data storage tags. Fish Oceanogr 16:436–447

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Scanlon B (2011) Fishery management report for sport fisheries in the Northwest/North Slope management area, 2009. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fishery Management Report No. 11–32, Anchorage

  37. Smith MA (2010) Arctic marine synthesis: atlas of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Audubon Alaska and Oceana, Anchorage

    Google Scholar 

  38. Spares AD, Stokesbury MJ, O’Dor RK, Dick TA (2012) Temperature, salinity and prey availability shape the marine migration of Arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus, in a macrotidal estuary. Mar Biol 159:1633–1646

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Teo SL, Boustany A, Dewar H, Stokesbury MJW, Weng KC, Beemer S, Seitz AC, et al. (2007) Annual migrations, diving behavior and thermal biology of Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) on their breeding grounds in the gulf of Mexico. Mar Biol 151:1–18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Teo SL, Sandstrom PT, Chapman ED, Null RE, Brown K, Klimey AP, Block BA (2011) Archival and acoustic tags reveal the post-spawning migrations, diving behavior, and thermal habitat of hatchery-origin Sacramento river steelhead kelts (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Environ Biol Fish 96:175–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Volkov AF, Chuchukalo VI, Radchenko VI, Efimkin AY, Kuznetova NA (1996) Summer feeding habits of the Dolly Varden in the Bering sea. Oceanology 35:827–832

    Google Scholar 

  42. Walker RV, Davis ND, Myers KW, Helle JH (2005) New information from archival tags from the bearing sea tagging, 1998–2004. N Pac Anadr Fish Comm Bull No 6:38–40

    Google Scholar 

  43. Walker RV, Sviridov VV, Urawa S, Azumaya T (2007) Spatio-temporal variation in the vertical distributions of Pacific salmon in the ocean. North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission Bulletin No 4:193–201

  44. Weingartner TK, Danielson SD, Sasaki Y, Pavlov V, Kulakov M (1999) The Siberian coastal current: a wind-and buoyancy-forced Arctic coastal current. J Geophys Res 104:29,697–29,713

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Weingartner T, Aagaard K, Woodgate R, Danielson S, Sasaki Y, Cavalieri D (2005) Circulation on the North Central Chukchi sea shelf. Deep Sea Res Pt II 52:150–174

    Google Scholar 

  46. Woodgate RA, Aagaard K, Weingartner TJ (2005) A year in the physical oceanography for the Chukchi sea: moored measurements from autumn 1990–1991. Deep Sea Res Pt II 52:3116–3149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Yukimasa I, Yano A, Ban M, Ogura M (2001) Vertical movement of a chum salmon Oncoryhnchus keta in the western north Pacific Ocean as determined by a depth-recording archival tag. Fish Sci 67:1030–1035

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Study collaboration and funding was provided in part by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Environmental Studies Program through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Coastal Marine Institute (BOEM Cooperative Agreement M12AC00006). Generous in-kind/matching funds were provided by Red Dog Mine operated by Teck, Inc., the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Invaluable student funding for Michael Courtney was provided by the University of Alaska Fairbank’s Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Activity, Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center, and the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center. Finally, we thank Chris Zimmerman, Matt Evenson, Tom Taube, Mark Evans, Chris Eckert, Rebecca Hager, the employees and contractors of Red Dog Mine, and the residents of Kivalina, AK for their generous support.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael B. Courtney.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Courtney, M.B., Scanlon, B.S., Rikardsen, A.H. et al. Marine behavior and dispersal of an important subsistence fish in Arctic Alaska, the Dolly Varden. Environ Biol Fish 99, 209–222 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-015-0468-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Dolly Varden
  • Chukchi sea
  • PSATs
  • Depth
  • Temperature
  • Arctic