• Ecology Of Juvenile Pink Salmon In The North Gulf Of Alaska And Prince William Sound

      Boldt, Jennifer Lynn; Haldorson, Lewis J. (2001)
      Increased production of salmon in Alaska has been accompanied by a decrease in average body size and decreased wild stocks, indicating a possible density-dependent response to increases in salmon populations and hatchery releases. Pink salmon have a short two-year life cycle and most post-hatch mortality is thought to occur during their first months at sea; therefore, processes in the early marine residence period may determine abundance. Geographic and seasonal patterns in distribution, growth, and condition of juvenile pink salmon during their first months at sea were examined in Chapter 1. The migration of pink salmon from Prince William Sound (PWS) occurred over several months. Fish lengths, weights, and energy contents varied geographically and seasonally. Pink salmon energy content was highest on the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) shelf in July and August and lowest in PWS in July, indicating that growth conditions were better on the GOA shelf. Spatial and temporal variation in growth and condition is indicative of disparate feeding opportunities for juvenile pink salmon. An unusual aspect of this study was the concurrent collection of zooplankton and fish in PWS and on the GOA shelf. Geographic and seasonal changes in juvenile pink salmon diets were examined during their first six months at sea in Chapter 2. Pink salmon diets varied geographically and seasonally, and prey size increased as fish grew. A unique opportunity existed to compare the energy content of thermally marked hatchery pink salmon to their wild counterparts in PWS (Chapter 3). Fish condition varied geographically, however, there were no differences among hatchery groups and/or wild pink salmon at any one location. This indicates that fish were staying together as a group. In Chapter 4, pink salmon consumption was estimated to represent a small fraction of the production but potentially a large proportion of the available standing stock of zooplankton in PWS. Geographic variations in fish condition, diet, and zooplankton densities were observed in this study. This supports the hypothesis that local processes, including food depletion and/or zooplankton availability are important to juvenile pink salmon.