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Association between environmental factors, smolt size and the survival of wild and reared Atlantic salmon from the Simojoki River in the Baltic Sea

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†Tel.: +358 205 751 678; fax: +358 205 751 679; email: irma.kallio-nyberg@rktl.fi

Abstract

The survival of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar in the Baltic Sea was examined in relation to smolt traits (length and origin) and annual environmental factors [sea surface temperature (SST) and seasonal North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index], and prey fish abundance (herring Clupea harengus and sprat Sprattus sprattus) in the main basin and the southern Gulf of Bothnia. The study was based on recapture data for Carlin-tagged hatchery-reared and wild smolts from the Simojoki, a river flowing into the northern Gulf of Bothnia. The survival of the wild and reared groups was analysed using an ANOVA model and a stepwise regression model, with the arcsin-transformed proportion of recaptured fish as the response variable. The results demonstrated a combined influence of smolt traits and environmental factors on survival. For the reared Atlantic salmon released in 1986–1998 (28 groups), the increasing annual mean SST in July in the southern Gulf of Bothnia and increasing mean smolt size improved survival. If the SST in July was excluded from the model, the NAO index in May to July also had a positive effect on survival (P < 0·10). The log10-transformed abundance of 0+ year herring in the southern Gulf of Bothnia entered the model (P < 0·15) if the SST and NAO index were excluded. For the wild Atlantic salmon released in 1972–1993 (21 groups), only the increasing SST in July showed a significant association with improved survival (P = 0·004). Prey fish abundance in the main basin of the Baltic Sea had no influence on the survival of reared or wild smolt groups. The interaction between smolt size and the SST in July was not significant. The origin was a better, but not a significant, predictor of marine survival compared to the smolt size or the SST in July. The mean recapture rate of the wild groups was twice that of the reared groups in the whole data. The results suggest that cold summers in the Gulf of Bothnia reduce the survival of young Atlantic salmon in both wild and reared groups. The larger smolt size of the reared groups compared with the wild groups to some extent compensated for their lower ability to live in the wild.

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