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Comparing abundance‐based and tag‐based estimates of coho salmon marine survival

Cochran, Sean M., Ricker, Seth, Anderson, Colin, Gallagher, Sean P., Ward, Darren M.
Fisheries management and ecology 2019 v.26 no.2 pp. 165-171
Oncorhynchus kisutch, adults, anadromous fish, habitats, juveniles, population dynamics, salmon, smolts, streams, survival rate, trapping, California
Obtaining reliable estimates of marine survival is essential for understanding anadromous salmon population dynamics. Two common approaches to estimating marine survival are (a) dividing abundance of returning adult salmon abundance by abundance of smolts from the same cohort, or (b) tagging a portion of the migrating smolts and estimating the return rate of tagged adults. This study compared these two approaches to estimating marine survival for coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch (Walbaum), across multiple years in three California streams. Abundance‐based survival estimates were higher than tag‐based estimates; average estimates for the two techniques differed from 1.5‐fold to 7.4‐fold across streams. One likely cause for these divergent estimates is migration of juveniles from natal habitat before smolt trapping begins, resulting in an underestimate of smolt abundance and an overestimate of marine survival rate for the abundance‐based method. Estimates of marine survival obtained from abundance estimates and tag returns are not directly comparable.