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Juvenile Salmon Marine Survival

Researching salmon early life history and drivers of growth, condition, and survival
Program Leads
Brendan Connors
ESSA Technologies Ltd
Senior Systems Ecologist
Sean Godwin
Simon Fraser University
PhD Candidate
Brian Hunt
University of British Columbia
Hakai Research Associate, Biological Oceanographer
Martin Krkosek
University of Toronto
Assistant Professor
Evgeny Pakhomov
University of British Columbia
Luke Rogers
University of Toronto
Program Description

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.


Juvenile salmon seine


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?
Project Participants
Mack Bartlett, Salmon Coast
Katie Chan, Salmon Coast
Brendan Connors, ESSA Technologies Ltd
Samantha Crowley, Salmon Coast
Megan Foss, Hakai Science
Matthew Foster, Hakai Science
Sean Godwin, Simon Fraser University
Chris Guinchard, Salmon Coast
Alex Hare, Hakai Science
Shawn Hateley, Hakai Science
Kate Holmes, Hakai Science
Keith Holmes, Hakai Science
Brian Hunt, University of British Columbia
Brett Johnson, Hakai Science
Martin Krkosek, University of Toronto
Kate Lansley, Hakai Science
Donnah MacKinnon, Salmon Coast
Natalie Mahara, Hakai Science
Evgeny Pakhomov, University of British Columbia
Rebecca Piercey, Hakai Science
Katie Pocock, Hakai Science
Zephyr Polk, Salmon Coast
Leo Pontier, Hakai Science
Lauren Portner, Hakai Science
Luba Reshitnyk, Hakai Science
Luke Rogers, University of Toronto
Dylan Smith, Salmon Coast
Coady Web, Salmon Coast
Carson White, Salmon Coast