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200709000 - Effects of the marine environment on the growth and survival of Columbia Basin spring Chinook and sockeye salmon stocks

Sponsor: Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC)

Budgets: FY07: $70,319 | FY08: $58,694 | FY09: $9,124

Short description: This project will examine the role of marine growth, as measured by scale increment data, in controlling the survival of Columbia Basin spring chinook and sockeye salmon.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0

Comment:

ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable

Comment:

The research proposed is to determine the relation between marine growth and survival of Columbia Basin spring Chinook and sockeye salmon, as estimated by scale readings, and the age structure, escapement, and ocean conditions. In general, this is a proposal that might have received a strong recommendation for funding 5 to 10 years ago, but the science has progressed beyond what is proposed. Age and growth data are measurable objectives that tie in well with subbasin and provincial plans, but more detailed information should have been provided on this aspect. In a sense, this proposal, which would look at scales from almost 20 years, is a retrospective monitoring study and would provide data on changes in ages and growth of returning salmon. Decadal and interdecadal trends may be apparent, as they have in survivals of some stocks. The proposed project has the potential to provide significant benefits over the long term; however, the information provided in most sections of the narrative was insufficient for reviewers to adequately evaluate the scientific merits of the proposed research. This proposal appears to have been hastily prepared with justification missing. The scientific literature review is incomplete, given the numerous papers available on scale analyses as a method for investigating freshwater and marine survival of Pacific salmon (going back to the early 1900s). Many statements are not supported by citations to the scientific literature, e.g., "Ocean entry is easily recognized on scales." The literature on interannual differences in marine distribution of salmon was not covered. The methods proposed would likely not provide robust answers to the proponent's questions because the samples of fish scales collected at Bonneville Dam or in ocean fisheries will include salmon from different stocks with different origins, migration patterns, and ocean entry times. For example, the proponents will only differentiate hatchery from wild fish -- on the basis of adipose clips (but not all hatchery Chinook are clipped) or interpretation of scale growth patterns, which may not be completely reliable. Coded-wire tag recovery data and genetic data have shown that different stocks of Columbia River Chinook salmon can have different migration speeds and ocean residence locations. This may confound analyses of ocean factors with growth or survival unless basin-scale factors affect growth and survival. The justification for measuring circuli spacing is not adequate, as circuli spacing and number are related to growth of fish. Distances along a common axis from ocean entry to each of the annuli would seem the best measure of growth for different year classes. The correlative analysis with the PDO data is weakly described and will be difficult to interpret because the distribution of salmon in the ocean has changed from year to year over the time the scales were collected. Therefore, linking water masses and salmon survival based on the scale work will be problematic. As they state, the study might be useful in forecasting spring Chinook and sockeye run sizes. It might be possible with new DNA methods to use original scale samples to identify the stock of origin of individual fish in the Bonneville mixtures, but this method is not proposed. The information gained from scale analysis of freshwater growth in various subbasins would be useful but cannot be considered separately as the proposal is written. The proposal only briefly describes the work's relationship to other projects, and there is little evidence of integration with other programs, e.g., oceanographic studies. The PIs are highly qualified to perform this study, and both have an excellent record of publications in the field of scale pattern analysis; however, FTE/hours committed by Friedland to this project were not provided. It is not clear from the narrative who will actually measure the scales, and whether sufficient time and funding has been allocated to complete this major task. The costs of the new digitizing equipment and software are not described in the narrative. Good plans for publication of scientific information and posting of data on the StreamNet website were provided.

State/province recommendation: MS: Recommended Action

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: This project appears redundant with project number 199801400. The tasks presented here appear to be included in project number 199801400 (by different implementers). Some prioritization of tasks proposed in the suite of ocean projects must occur. These projects address a Core Program need, but it is unclear which tasks within the project meet that standard. This project needs to be reviewed with other ocean studies. The set of questions around ocean survival and movement are Core Program issues. Which suite of projects should be funded to address those questions needs to be strategically developed to fit within an available budget and address management questions with enough certainty to be useful for decision making.