Comparative feeding, growth and movements of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) parr from riverine and estuarine environments


Science Branch, Gulf Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, P. O. Box 5030, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada ElC 966


Abstract– The diet composition, movcments and growth of Atlantic salmon parr rearing in the estuary of Western Arm Brook, Newfoundland were compared with those of parr from riverine habitats over 2 years. Estuarine parr consumed a variety of prey, including many freshwater taxa (mainly insects), which indicated a dependence on freshwater drift from the river. Prey of estuarine origin (amphipods and sticklebacks) were increasingly consumed between spring and autumn. Prey volume per fish and number of prey per fish increased significantly for estuarine parr between spring and autumn, suggesting an improvement in food availability. Riverine parr, however, realized a general decrease in both parameters between spring and autumn. The recapture of 16% (n= 131) of the 829 parr marked in the estuary in 1987 and 1988 indicated a directed movement toward the head of the estuary and river mouth, as also suggested by the diet analysis. Parr from outer estuary sites were very mobile compared with parr from the estuary site closest to the river mouth, which behaved more like parr in the river proper in displaying strong site fidelity. Movement patterns of parr were primarily along the shoreline. Individual growth rates were highly variable in both environments but especially in the estuary. The mean growth of estuarine parr was 0.23 mm. d−1 between May and October with some evidence of fastest growth having occurred in late spring and early summer (approx. 0.4 mm. d−1); mean growth rate of riverine parr was slower, at 0.12 mm. d−1. The results are discussed in the context that estuarine rearing by salmon parr represents an alternative life-history tactic for the species in river systems in eastern Canada.