The Ecology of Juvenile Salmon in the Northeast Pacific Ocean: Regional Comparisons

Regional Comparisons of Juvenile Salmon Feeding in Coastal Marine Waters off the West Coast of North America

Richard A. Brodeur, Elizabeth A. Daly, Molly V. Sturdevant, Todd W. Miller, Jamal H. Moss, Mary E. Thiess, Marc Trudel, Laurie A. Weitkamp, Janet Armstrong, and Elizabeth C. Norton

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569957.ch7

Abstract.—Upon entering marine waters, juvenile Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. depend on feeding at high and sustained levels to achieve growth necessary for survival. In the last decade, several concurrent studies have been examining the food habits and feeding intensity of juvenile Pacific salmon in the shelf regions from California to the northern Gulf of Alaska. In this paper, we compared results from feeding studies for all five species of juvenile salmon (Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha, coho salmon O. kisutch, chum salmon O. keta, sockeye salmon O. nerka, and pink salmon O. gorbuscha) between 2000 and 2002, years when these regions were sampled extensively. Within these years, we temporally stratified our samples to include early (May–July) and late (August–October) periods of ocean migration. Coho and Chinook salmon diets were most similar due to a high consumption of fish prey, whereas pink, chum, and sockeye salmon diets were more variable with no consistently dominant prey taxa. Salmon diets varied more spatially (by oceanographic and regional factors) than temporally (by season or year) in terms of percentage weight or volume of major prey categories. We also examined regional variations in feeding intensity based on stomach fullness (expressed as percent body weight) and percent of empty or overly full stomachs. Stomach fullness tended to be greater off Alaska than off the west coast of the United States, but the data were highly variable. Results from these comparisons provide a large-scale picture of juvenile salmon feeding in coastal waters throughout much of their range, allowing for comparison with available prey resources, growth, and survival patterns associated with the different regions.