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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Fecundity trends of Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Malick, Michael J.; Losee, James P.; Marston, Gary; Agha, Mickey; Berejikian, Barry A.; Beckman, Brian R.; Cooper, Matthew

Abstract

Fecundity is an important demographic parameter that contributes to the productivity of anadromous fish stock dynamics. Yet, studies on fecundity patterns in Pacific salmon (Onchorhynchus spp.) often only include a few years of data, limiting our ability to understand spatio-temporal trends. Here, we used data on 43 hatchery Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha, Salmonidae) populations in Washington State to evaluate whether average fecundity changed over the past three decades. We then used data from a subset of stocks (18) to evaluate the relationship between fecundity and body length. Our results revealed significant changes in fecundity across the 25-year study period with most stocks showing declines in fecundity over the past decade. Results further showed that Chinook salmon have decreased in length over this same period and that annual variation in mean length explains a majority (62%) of annual variation in mean fecundity. Specifically, we estimated that a 1-mm reduction in length results in 7.8 fewer eggs (95% CI = 6.6-8.9). Given that the majority of Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon in the environment and harvested in fisheries originate from hatchery releases and that nearby hatchery and wild populations generally have similar ocean distributions, these results likely reflect patterns for many populations not included. Combined, our results highlight the need to consider changes in body size and egg production when assessing the dynamics of anadromous fish populations and designing management or conservation plans, particularly for depressed populations.

Keywords

egg production; hatchery; Pacific Salmon; population demographics; productivity; spatio-temporal

Published in

Fish and Fisheries
2023, Volume: 24, number: 3, pages: 454-465
Publisher: WILEY