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Riverine, estuarine and marine migratory behaviour and physiology of wild and hatchery-reared coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch (Walbaum) smolts descending the Campbell River, BC, Canada

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Eighty coho salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch smolts (40 wild and 40 hatchery-reared) were surgically implanted with acoustic transmitters and released into the Quinsam River over 2 days. Differences in physiology, travel time and migratory behaviour were examined between wild and hatchery-reared fish. In addition, tagged and control fish of both wild and hatchery-reared stock were raised for 3 months following surgery to compare survival and tag retention. Detection ranges of the acoustic receivers were tested in the river, estuary and ocean in a variety of flow conditions and tide levels. Receivers were placed in the river, estuary and up to 50 km north and south from the river mouth in the marine environment. Wild smolts were significantly smaller by mass, fork length and condition factor than hatchery-reared smolts and exhibited significantly higher levels of sodium, potassium and chloride in their blood plasma than hatchery-reared smolts. The gill Na+K+-ATPase activity was also significantly higher in the wild coho smolts at the time of release. Ninety-eight per cent of wild and 80% of hatchery-reared fish survived to the estuary, 8 km downstream of the release site. No difference was found in migration speed, timing or survival between smolts released during daylight and those released after dark. Wild smolts, however, spent less time in the river and estuary, and as a result entered the ocean earlier than hatchery-reared smolts. Average marine swimming speeds for wild smolts were double those of their hatchery-reared counterparts. While hatchery smolts dispersed in both a northward and southward direction upon entering the marine environment, the majority of wild smolts travelled north from the Campbell River estuary. The wild coho salmon smolts were more physiologically fit and ready to enter sea water than the hatchery-reared smolts, and as a result had higher early survival rates and swimming speeds.

Keywords: Oncorhynchus kisutch; hatchery; smolts; telemetry; wild

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: 1: The University of British Columbia, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research, 4160 Marine Drive, West Vancouver BC, V7V 1N6, Canada 2: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Tungasletta 2, N-7485 Trondheim, Norway

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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