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Keywords:

  • fish ladder;
  • lactate;
  • physiological stress;
  • Pacific salmon;
  • Oncorhynchus gorbuscha

ABSTRACT

Beyond assessing passage efficiency of fishway structures, there is a need to examine the sublethal impacts of passage on the physiological condition of fish. Muscle and plasma samples were collected from pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) at four sites along a fishway and were compared in order to assess the effectiveness of these methods as they apply to fishway studies. Both plasma and muscle tissue revealed changes consistent with anaerobic activity when fish sampled from within the fishway were compared with field baseline estimates taken from fish sampled 50 m downstream of the fishway entrance. Plasma Cl, osmolality and haematocrit increased significantly (all p < 0.01) during ascent, whereas muscle glycogen and phosphocreatine declined (both p < 0.03). Both plasma and muscle tissue collected from fish sampled at a site just upstream of the fishway showed physiological profiles that were consistent with metabolic recovery relative to physiological conditions during passage: plasma lactate, haematocrit and muscle lactate had decreased (all p < 0.01), and muscle phosphocreatine increased (p = 0.01). When examining the physiological changes that specifically occurred between the two sites within the fishway structure, we found no differences in plasma samples, but muscle lactate and water content both showed significant changes (both p < 0.05). These results are consistent with the greater sensitivity of muscle tissue than of blood to exercise-related physiological changes and highlight the usefulness of sampling muscle tissue for assessing fishways that ascended in a short time. Fishway studies could benefit from greater inclusion of physiological tools and approaches to identify the costs of passage and areas of difficulty within a fishway. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.