Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8555
Title: The influence of the Columbia River plume on the survival of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha):  a numerical exploration
Author: Michela Burla, Antonio M. Baptista, Edmundo Casillas, John G. Williams, D. M. Marsh
Publication Year: 2010
Journal: Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Volume: 67
Issue: 10
Pages: 1671-1684
Keywords: steelhead, Columbia River plume, ocean migration,

Are smolt–to–adult return rates (SARs) for wild steelhead (i.e., sea–run rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) and wild Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) related to changes in the Columbia River plume at the time that juvenile migrants enter the ocean?  We used three–dimensional (3D) numerical models of the baroclinic circulation in the Columbia River estuary/plume/shelf system to simulate within–season variation in plume size and location, comparing the results with SARs for each day that juvenile salmon entered the ocean for 1999–2003.  We found that steelhead benefited from the plume environment at a narrow window of time around their ocean entry.  However, when large–scale ocean conditions turned unfavorable, the contribution of local plume conditions to the overall variability in steelhead survival became not significant.  A similar evaluation revealed that the plume did not affect survival of Chinook salmon, at least at the fine scale of variability considered.  The differential response between the two species is consistent with observed and previously reported behavioral characteristics they exhibit.  We speculate that steelhead mainly use the plume to move quickly away from coastal habitats and the predation pressures associated with this environment, for a more direct migration than Chinook salmon to ocean habitats in the Gulf of Alaska. 

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Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management