Understanding seasonal migration and localized persistence of populations is critical for effective species harvest and conservation management. Pacific salmon (genus Oncorhynchus) forecasting models predict stock composition, abundance, and distribution during annual assessments of proposed fisheries impacts. Most models, however, fail to account for the influence of biophysical factors on year-to-year fluctuations in migratory distributions and stock-specific survival. In this study, the ocean distribution and relative abundance of Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) stocks encountered in the California Current large marine ecosystem, U.S.A were inferred using catch-per-unit effort (CPUE) fisheries and genetic stock identification data. In contrast to stock distributions estimated through coded-wire-tag recoveries (typically limited to hatchery salmon), stock-specific CPUE provides information for both wild and hatchery fish. Furthermore, in contrast to stock composition results, the stock-specific CPUE metric is independent of other stocks and is easily interpreted over multiple temporal or spatial scales. Tests for correlations between stock-specific CPUE and stock composition estimates revealed these measures diverged once proportional contributions of locally rare stocks were excluded from data sets. A novel aspect of this study was collection of data both in areas closed to commercial fisheries and during normal, open commercial fisheries. Because fishing fleet efficiency influences catch rates, we tested whether CPUE differed between closed area (non-retention) and open area (retention) data sets. A weak effect was indicated for some, but not all, analyzed cases. Novel visualizations produced from stock-specific CPUE-based ocean abundance facilitates consideration of how highly refined, spatial and genetic information could be incorporated in ocean fisheries management systems and for investigations of biogeographic factors that influence migratory distributions of fish.
Bellinger MR, Banks MA, Bates SJ, Crandall ED, Garza JC, Sylvia G, et al. (2015) Geo-Referenced, Abundance Calibrated Ocean Distribution of Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Stocks across the West Coast of North America. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0131276. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131276