Planning the Management of Pacific Salmon in a Changing Climate
Richard J. Beamish, Ruston M. Sweeting, and Chrys M. Neville
Abstract.—Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. catches are at historic high levels. It is significant that one of the world’s major fisheries for a group of species that dominates the surface waters of the subarctic Pacific is actually very healthy. Natural trends in climate are now recognized to cause large fluctuations in Pacific salmon production, as shown in historical records of catch and recent changes probably have been affected by greenhouse gas induced climate changes. Pink salmon O. gorbuscha and chum salmon O. keta production and catch has increased in the past 30 years and may continue in a similar trend for for the next few decades. Coho salmon O. kisutch and Chinook salmon O. tshawytscha catches have been declining for several decades, particularly at the southern end of their range, and they may continue to decline. In the 1970s, hatcheries were considered to be a method of adding to the wild production of coho and Chinook salmon because the ocean capacity to produce these species was assumed to be underutilized. Large-scale changes in Pacific salmon abundances are linked to changes in large-scale atmospheric processes. These large-scale atmospheric processes are also linked to planetary energy transfers, and there is a decadal scale pattern to these relationships. Pacific salmon production in general is higher in decades of intense Aleutian lows than in periods of weak Aleutian lows. Key to understanding the impact of climate change on Pacific salmon is understanding how the Aleutian low will change. Chinook and coho salmon are minor species in the total commercial catch, but important socially and economically in North America. A wise use of hatcheries may be needed to maintain abundances of these species in future decades.