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Computer simulations of the effects of the Sitka eddy on the migration of sockeye salmon returning to British Columbia

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The Sitka eddy is a mesoscale eddy, 300 km in diameter, that develops off SE Alaska in about one year in two. The eddy has surface currents exceeding 50 km day−1 and it has been suggested that the eddy could deflect migrating salmon to the south, thereby reducing the proportion of British Columbia (BC) sockeye salmon accessible to Alaskan fishers. We modelled its effects on the migration of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) returning to northern BC, using an individual-based model to simulate migration paths, migration timing and metabolic costs of salmon with different migration behaviours. Except when their migration behaviour included positive rheotaxis, salmon that encountered the eddy had faster migration times and lower metabolic costs than those that did not. The least complex migration behaviour, compass orientation with no rheotaxis, was only slightly less efficient in metabolic terms than the optimal migration paths determined by dynamic programming. Our simulations show that the Sitka eddy itself does not deflect migrating salmon to the south or south-east regardless of migration behaviour, but that by interrupting the normal northward flow of the Alaskan Current, the eddy could influence latitude of landfall of migrating salmon.

Keywords: Bioenergetics; Sitka eddy; individual-based modelling; mesoscale eddies; sockeye salmon migration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Oceanography Department (now part of Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4, 2: Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4, 3: Forest Sciences Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, V6T 1Z4

Publication date: September 1, 2000


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