New Report Identifies Ocean Indicators Affecting Adult Coho and Chinook Salmon Runs

Posted on by NOSC

Many people connected to Chimacum Creek have been asking us about this year’s Coho run. Weekly reports sent in from our dedicated volunteers seem to indicate a low return for 2013. The graph below from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife depicting Coho redd counts, is based upon index surveys up to 2012, which includes NOSC Spawner Survey data:

Coho graph--Chimacum Creek Redd counts 1984-2012

 

 

Lack of precipitation resulting in a low water level in the creek certainly posed a major challenge for spawners once they left Port Townsend Bay and headed upstream. But what about conditions out in the vast, blue ocean–the place where most of these fish live for the majority of their lives?

Scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies recently published a new report titled Ocean Ecosystem Indicators of Salmon Marine Survival in the Northern California Current.” The full report includes a summary of ocean conditions for the previous few years as well as a forecast for the 2014 Coho run. Though their data shows “mixed signals” out at sea that “add greater uncertainty” to their predictions, their findings are nonetheless valuable for giving us a glimpse into the past lives of these salmon, and helping us to understand all the challeneges overcome by those dark red fish we see oscillating in the shallow water under the cover of cedars.

Below is an excerpt from the report:

“2013 was another year of mixed ocean conditions.  The climate-indicators, such as PDO and El Niño, were ‘neutral’, sea surface temperatures were warmer than usual, and the majority of the upwelling occurred over a short period of time (July) with the upwelling ‘season’ ultimately ending much earlier than usual.  The biological indicators pointed to good ocean conditions, with a high abundance of large, lipid-rich zooplankton, a moderate abundance of winter fish larvae that develop into salmon prey in the spring, and catches of juvenile spring Chinook salmon during the June survey off Washington and Oregon that were the second highest in 16 years.  Overall, juvenile salmon entering the ocean in 2013 encountered average to above average ocean conditions off Oregon and Washington.”

View the report here: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/fe/estuarine/oeip/documents/Peterson_etal_2013.pdf

2014 Coho and Chinook run forecast: http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/divisions/fe/estuarine/oeip/g-forecast.cfm

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