Did volcanic ash from Mt. Kasatoshi in 2008 contribute to a phenomenal increase in Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in 2010?


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The effect of a widely distributed phytoplankton bloom triggered by volcanic ash from Alaska (Hamme et al., 2010. Geophys. Res. Lett. 37) on juvenile Fraser River sockeye is discussed in terms of the timing of ocean migration and trophic structure of the Gulf of Alaska. Our hypothesis is that the occurrence of a massive diatom bloom in the Gulf greatly enhanced energy ascendancy in the ocean at a time of year when adolescent sockeye migrated from the coast in 2008. We contend this increase in food availability was an important factor for the survival and growth of juvenile sockeye which led to one of the strongest sockeye returns on record in 2010 of 34 million, compared with perhaps the weakest return on record of 1.7 million the previous year.