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Retrospective analysis of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) marine growth and condition in the northwest Atlantic based on tag-recovery data


  • [Correction made on 14 October 2014 after online publication on 27 July 2013: The article was resupplied due to corrections made to pages 104, 105, 106 and 114.]


The life history of North American Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is characterized by extensive round-trip migrations between freshwater rearing habitats and marine feeding grounds off the coasts of Canada and Greenland. Growth is rapid during the marine migration, and growth rate and condition factor may be indicators of salmon health during this period. Growth data were evaluated from a tag-recovery program conducted from 1969 to 1991 using hatchery-reared Atlantic salmon smolts released in the Penobscot River, Maine, U.S.A. Information from recaptures of 3167 salmon that were at large in the marine environment for 1 month to 3 yr was analyzed. Length–weight measurements coupled with time-at-large data were used to estimate von Bertalanffy and allometric growth parameters specific to the marine phase. Variations in growth and condition factor in relation to smolt age, release date, and temperature conditions in the northwest Atlantic were also examined. The von Bertalanffy k parameter declined with ordinal release date, indicating faster growth rates during the first year of smolts released earlier in the spring. The 2-yr-old smolts had a larger k than 1-yr-old smolts, although 1-yr-old smolts grew to a larger asymptotic size. Sea surface temperature had variable effects on growth parameters and condition factor, with temperature at the beginning of the migration and in overwintering habitat during the first year at sea having the greatest influence on length–weight relationships. Determining the mechanisms that influence growth of individuals during the marine phase will help elucidate the factors responsible for historic growth trends, establishing a baseline for current research.