Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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A gateway to oceanographic adventures from the Newport Line and beyond

Blog on ocean conditions along the Newport Line and the northern CA Current.

2017 Ocean salmon survey: Strangest Ever!

By Cheryl Morgan
October 19, 2017

We've been sampling a grid of stations each June since 1998. These stations span from Newport, Oregon, to the northern tip of Washington State and extend from 1 to 30 miles offshore.  Although each June is unique in some aspects, June of 2017 was the strangest we've yet encountered in many ways.

Map of the regions sampled with the FV Frosti June 1998 - 2017. Photos courtesy of Scott Melville of Pacific Drone, who was also an FV Frosti crew member.

The first thing we noticed was the pyrosomes that were in high abundance, everywhere.  Pyrosoma atlanticum are colonial pelagic tunicates, and reports were coming in of high numbers of them in areas mostly further south of where we sample. But we were catching them for the first time off of northern Washington!

Pyrosomes were found throughout the sampling grid, sometimes in very high numbers.

Moreover, catches of many of our fish species were quite different than an average year (some more abundant, some less so).  The juvenile salmon that are the focus of this study were very scarce - one of the lowest in the 20 years of the time series.

June 1998 - 2017 catches of yearling Chinook and coho salmon.  2017 was one of the lowest catch years in the time-series!
Catches of Pacific pompano (left) and jack mackerel (right).

However, warm water species, such as Pacific pompano and jack mackerel (a potential predator on juvenile salmon) were found in high numbers.  All of these things point to a much altered ecosystem in this region, and do not bode well for salmon returns.

Due to the unusual nature of these findings, we engaged in multiple outreach efforts to get the word out.  More info on these findings can be found at the Associated Press and the NW Fisheries Science Center website.

Tagged: BPA

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