Avian Predation on Juvenile Salmonids: Spatial and Temporal Analysis Based on Acoustic and Passive Integrated Transponder Tags

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  • We evaluated the impact of predation on juvenile steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss and yearling and subyearling Chinook Salmon O. tshawytscha by piscivorous waterbirds from 11 different breeding colonies in the Columbia River basin during 2012 and 2014. Fish were tagged with both acoustic tags and PIT tags and were tracked via a network of hydrophone arrays to estimate total smolt mortality (1 – survival) at various spatial and temporal scales during out-migration. Recoveries of PIT tags on bird colonies, coupled with the last known detections of live fish passing hydrophone arrays, were used to estimate the impact of avian predation relative to total smolt mortality. Results indicated that avian predation was a substantial source of steelhead mortality, with predation probability (proportion of available fish consumed by birds) ranging from 0.06 to 0.28 for fish traveling through the lower Snake River and the lower and middle Columbia River. Predation probability estimates ranged from 0.03 to 0.09 for available tagged yearling Chinook Salmon and from 0.01 to 0.05 for subyearlings. Smolt predation by gulls Larus spp. was concentrated near hydroelectric dams, while predation by Caspian terns Hydroprogne caspia was concentrated within reservoirs. No concentrated areas of predation were identified for double-crested cormorants Phalacrocorax auritus or American white pelicans Pelecanus erythrorhynchos. Comparisons of total smolt mortality relative to mortality from colonial waterbirds indicated that avian predation was one of the greatest sources of mortality for steelhead and yearling Chinook Salmon during out-migration. In contrast, avian predation on subyearling Chinook Salmon was generally low and constituted a minor component of total mortality. Our results demonstrate that acoustic and PIT tag technologies can be combined to quantify where and when smolt mortality occurs and the fraction of mortality that is due to colonial waterbird predation relative to non-avian mortality sources.
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  • Evans, A. F., Payton, Q., Turecek, A., Cramer, B., Collis, K., Roby, D. D., ... & Dotson, C. (2016). Avian Predation on Juvenile Salmonids: Spatial and Temporal Analysis Based on Acoustic and Passive Integrated Transponder Tags. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 145(4), 860-877. doi:10.1080/00028487.2016.1150881
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  • 145
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  • 4
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  • This project was funded by Public Utility District Number 2 of Grant County, Washington, with oversight and approval from the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee.
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