In spring 2015 Hakai Institute, in partnership with Salmon Coast, launched its Salmon Early Marine Survival Program. This program aims to address the need for improved knowledge of the factors governing juvenile salmon health and survival during their first weeks at sea. This research program focuses on Fraser River salmon, and the critical section of their northward migration route through the Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait. This area has been identified as a potential low productivity choke point for the growth, condition, and ultimately survival of juvenile Fraser River salmon. The Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait also represent a key area of interaction between wild and farmed fish.
Our sampling program is operated out of Hakai Institute’s Quadra Island Research Station, targeting the Discovery Islands, and Salmon Coast’s Echo Bay Research Station, targeting Johnstone Strait.
Using a highly mobile fleet of small research vessels we conduct high temporal and spatial resolution sampling through the Discovery Islands / Johnstone Strait region for the duration of the outmigration period.
Juvenile salmon are collected with mini-purse seine nets and samples are retained for analysis of feeding biology, growth, condition factor, and parasite and pathogen load.
Data on juvenile salmon biology is being combined with intensive bio-oceanographic measurements to address the following overarching research questions:
- What controls of the quantity and quality of zooplankton prey for migrating juvenile salmon?
- What are the stock specific migration dynamics through the complex Discovery Island / Johnstone Strait region?
- How do variations in zooplankton prey quantity and quality across the region, and over the migration period, interact with migration route and timing to determine fish health?
- What is the juvenile salmon parasite and pathogen infection dynamics across the Discovery Island / Johnstone Strait region?