Relatively little is known about fish species interactions in offshore areas of the world’s oceans because adequate experimental controls are typically unavailable in such vast areas. However, pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) are numerous and have an alternating-year pattern of abundance that provides a natural experimental control to test for interspecific competition in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Since a number of studies have recently examined pink salmon interactions with other salmon, we reviewed them in an effort to describe patterns of interaction over broad regions of the ocean. Research consistently indicated that pink salmon significantly altered prey abundance of other salmon species (e.g., zooplankton, squid), leading to altered diet, reduced total prey consumption and growth, delayed maturation, and reduced survival, depending on species and locale. Reduced survival was observed in chum salmon (O. keta) and Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) originating from Puget Sound and in Bristol Bay sockeye salmon (O. nerka). Growth of pink salmon was not measurably affected by other salmon species, but their growth was sometimes inversely related to their own abundance. In all marine studies, pink salmon affected other species through exploitation of prey resources rather than interference. Interspecific competition was observed in nearshore and offshore waters of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, and one study documented competition between species originating from different continents. Climate change had variable effects on competition. In the North Pacific Ocean, competition was observed before and after the ocean regime shift in 1977 that significantly altered abundances of many marine species, whereas a study in the Pacific Northwest reported a shift from predation- to competition-based mortality in response to the 1982/1983 El Nino. Key traits of pink salmon that influenced competition with other salmonids included great abundance, high consumption rates and rapid growth, degree of diet overlap or consumption of lower trophic level prey, and early migration timing into the ocean. The consistent pattern of findings from multiple regions of the ocean provides evidence that interspecific competition can significantly influence salmon population dynamics and that pink salmon may be the dominant competitor among salmon in marine waters.
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Ruggerone, G.T., Nielsen, J.L. Evidence for competitive dominance of Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) over other Salmonids in the North Pacific Ocean. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 14, 371–390 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-004-6927-0