A make pink salmon makes its way upstream to spawn. New research out of SFU suggests during healthy spawns of one species, competition among other dominate fish feeding on their eggs breaks down, allowing smaller fish to share in a critical, nutrient-rich food source. (Michael Penn file photo)

A make pink salmon makes its way upstream to spawn. New research out of SFU suggests during healthy spawns of one species, competition among other dominate fish feeding on their eggs breaks down, allowing smaller fish to share in a critical, nutrient-rich food source. (Michael Penn file photo)

Abundance of one salmon species affects all others, B.C. study suggests

Feeding on other fishes eggs more critical to health survival than previously thought

A healthy spawning run from one salmon species may play an important role in the health of others, new research from Simon Fraser University suggests.

It’s widely understood when salmon returns are low, dominant fish from other species will push out all smaller competitors to feed on the eggs. But in a study published this week in the journal Ecosphere, researchers from SFU’s Salmon Watershed Lab found when returns are high, the dominant fish will still fill their bellies, but also make room for the younger ones to share in the nutrient-rich feast.

“What we found really interesting is that the competition broke down,” Colin Bailey, lead researcher and PhD candidate said. “Typically when you read about competition with stream fish, the larger fish hold their territory — the larger or more dominate species out-compete the smaller fish. In this case, where we placed a high but realistic number of eggs, the competition dissolved. Small fish gained access to a really really high-quality food source.”

READ MORE: Record-low returns continue for Fraser sockeye despite success of Big Bar passage

For the study, Abundance of salmon key to feeding ‘underdog’ stream fishes, Bailey and biological sciences professor Jonathan Moore added between six and 3,575 pink salmon eggs in different locations of the Keogh River on Vancouver Island.

Fish were captured and lightly anesthetized to have their stomachs flushed and examined. (The fish recovered in an in-stream container before their release back into the river.)

The team found young coho salmon, small steelhead trout and bottom-dwelling sculpins were able to access large deposits of pink salmon eggs despite other dominant fishes.

The results suggest one species’ spawning numbers impacts food resources for entire fish communities.

READ MORE: B.C.’s steelhead need our support: Fraser-Nicola MLA

Bailey is planning future research on the subject, including this study’s possible connection to his previous research looking at the impacts of pink salmon runs on juvenile steelhead. In that study he found higher runs of pink salmon in the fall coincided with an earlier out-migration of steelhead in the spring. He said it’s commonly accepted in the scientific field that younger fish have less chance of survival during out migration, but there may be more to it.

“If you go to sea smaller you may not have a good chance of surviving, but maybe all that energy you acquire from pink salmon eggs the previous fall compensates for that,” Bailey said.

If the results follow his reasoning, it could potentially influence fisheries management policy in such ways as limiting harvests of large salmon runs where steelhead are struggling.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans Canadasalmon stocksScience

Just Posted

Kitimat’s Water Quality Advisory, which has been in place for just over a week, has been lifted. (Black Press file photo)
Water Quality Advisory in Kitimat lifted

The district has been under a Water Quality Advisory since June 2

On June 16 at 6 p.m., the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a public presentation and discussion with Happipad, a social enterprise, to talk about solutions for affordable housing Kitimat. (Happipad photo)
Affordable housing to be focus of Kitimat Chamber of Commerce meeting

Figures indicate the average Kitimat household needs to make more than $92,000 a year

(District of Kitimat logo)
Hirsch Creek Bridge restricted to single lane traffic

The district is restricting the bridge traffic to legal highway loads only

Artist’s illustration of the proposed Kitimat LNG facility at Bish Cove near Kitimat. (Kitimat LNG illustration)
Haisla Nation surprised by Woodside pull out from Kitimat LNG project

Haisla Nation council states its main focus is now on developing the Haisla-led Cedar LNG project

(Northern Health logo)
Pop-up vaccine clinic tomorrow at the Save-on-Foods parking lot in Kitimat

The clinic will be this Friday, June 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read