Turbidity reduces predation on migrating juvenile Pacific salmon

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age, attack, British Columbia, BRITISH-COLUMBIA, Canada, channel, chinook, Chinook salmon, DIFFERENCE, FIELD, Fish, Fraser River, juvenile, juveniles, migrating, migration, NUMBER, Oncorhynchus, PACIFIC, PACIFIC SALMON, predation, predator, predators, prey, river, Rivers, salmon, SALMON ONCORHYNCHUS, salmonid, salmonids, seaward migration, spatial, stock, Stocks, SYSTEM, Tributaries, turbidity, turbitity, UNITS, Water

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Transactions of the American Fisheries Society


We field tested the hypothesis that predation by piscivorous fish is reduced in turbid compared with clear water. The Harrison River (less than or equal to 1 nephelometric turbidity units, NTU) is a clear tributary of the naturally turbid Eraser River (27-108 NTU), in British Columbia, Canada. Age 0 juveniles of Harrison River stocks of Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. migrating seaward in spring obligately pass through turbid and clear reaches of these rivers. To test the hypothesis, we compared predation on salmonids by potential predators caught by beach seine and by the rate of predator attack on tethered juvenile chinook salmon O. tshawytscha in these two rivers. Of 491 predators examined, 30% of Harrison River piscivores had recently consumed fish compared with only 10% of Fraser River piscivores. Of those that ate fish, fish prey per predator was significantly lower in the Fraser River (mean = 1.1, N = 21) than in the Harrison River (mean = 1.7, N = 66). In a clear-water side channel of the Fraser River-Nicomen Slough (1-6 NTU)-both incidence of predation (37%) and number of fish prey per predator (mean = 2.4, N = 19) were similar to values for the Harrison River. Loss of prey from tethers was significantly higher in the Harrison River (23-61%) than in the Fraser River (10-24%). The loss of prey from tethers was highest at dusk and near the bottom in the Harrison River; no spatial or temporal difference occurred in the turbid Fraser River. Therefore, our data support the hypothesis. During their seaward migration in the Fraser River system, age-0 Pacific salmon were less likely to encounter and be consumed by fish piscivores in turbid water than in clear water. [References: 41]





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