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High river temperature reduces survival of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) approaching spawning grounds and exacerbates female mortality

Martins, Eduardo G., Hinch, Scott G., Patterson, David A., Hague, Merran J., Cooke, Steven J., Miller, Kristina M., Robichaud, David, English, Karl K., Farrell, Anthony P.
Canadian journal of fisheries and aquatic sciences 2012 v.69 no.2 pp. 330-342
Oncorhynchus nerka, adults, cortisol, females, freshwater, males, models, mortality, pathogens, radio frequency identification, rivers, spawning, water temperature
Recent studies have shown that warm temperatures reduce survival of adult migrating sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), but knowledge gaps exist on where high-temperature-related mortality occurs along the migration and whether females and males are differentially impacted by river temperature. In this study, we monitored 437 radio-tagged Fraser River sockeye salmon and used capture–mark–recapture modelling approaches to investigate whether river thermal conditions differentially influence (i) spatial patterns of survival along a 413-km stretch of migration and (ii) survival of the sexes. Regardless of water temperature, survival decreased in the river section containing the most hydraulically difficult passages of the migration. However, when water temperature was warm (19 °C), survival decreased even further in the final 186 km of the migration prior to reaching the spawning grounds, particularly in females. Female and male survival differed but only when they experienced warm river temperatures. Under such conditions, the overall freshwater migration survival of males was 1.6 times higher (0.79 ± 0.09 standard error, SE) than that of females (0.50 ± 0.11 SE). As maturing female sockeye salmon maintain higher levels of plasma cortisol compared with males, we suspect that females could be immuno-compromised and thus less resistant to pathogens whose rates of development are accelerated by warm temperatures.