Salmon Summit

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Carrie Byron and I, both postdocs here in the ecosystem modeling lab, just returned from the "Salmon Summit" in La Rochelle, France.  Despite the grandiose name assigned to this conference, it was actually a small symposium that brought together about 130 scientists and managers working on Atlantic salmon from across North America and Europe (as well as a few West Coast folks with stories to relate based on their Pacific salmon work).  The core intent of this meeting was to learn about recent research related to Atlantic salmon while they are at sea--a life stage that received remarkably little attention for this species until major declines in returns were observed for salmon runs across their range in the mid-1990s.  The spatial extent and coherent timing of these declines indicated that something must be happening to salmon while they were at sea, and new studies and surveys were designed to understand the major contributing factors.  Most of this work has been done since 2008, when the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization funded new surveys and analyses addressing a variety of factors affecting Atlantic salmon while they are migrating and feeding in the ocean.

 

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Graph of declines in the pre-fishery abundance of Atlantic salmon across six sub-regions of North America. 


Given the recent nature of most efforts to understand factors affecting salmon in the marine realm, there weren't definitive answers at this meeting about what caused the mid-1990s downturn.  But there were a lot of studies investigating key hypotheses and demonstrating that Atlantic salmon growth and survival are affected by environmental variability, predator and prey community shifts, and long-term climate change.  In addition, many of the studies advanced our understanding of the basic ecology of Atlantic salmon--honing knowledge of where these fish might feed, what they eat during different portions of their migration, how stocks are genetically structured, and how they interact with other fisheries.

While the meeting showcased some important advances in understanding the marine life of Atlantic salmon, it also revealed some valuable opportunities for future work.  Building collaborations across disciplines would further enhance our understanding of Atlantic salmon ecology.  For example, genetic tools that have proven able to assign salmon to specific populations or regions of origin could be applied to samples collected from fish when they are present as a mixed stock at Greenland so that ecological investigations could account for the life history and migratory distinctions between stocks before they encounter these feeding grounds or the commercial fishery.  In addition, the potential value of regional syntheses and comparative cross-regional studies became apparent, as different types of work have been emphasized in different locations.  Synthesizing information from these studies would provide a clearer picture of what we know broadly and locally about Atlantic salmon marine ecology, and it would pave the way for structuring comparative studies on a variety of topics.

It is an exciting time to be a marine ecologist studying Atlantic salmon.  I view Atlantic salmon as an integrator of effects from a variety of physical, biological, and anthropogenic factors that they may encounter between their home rivers and the northern Atlantic.  The "Salmon Summit" reinforced the idea that salmon are indeed affected by many independent factors, but there is still much work to be done to understand the relative importance of these factors and how they jointly influence population dynamics of Atlantic salmon.  Teasing apart these relationships further may lead to predictive models that will enable managers to adjust fishing regulations and recovery expectations for Atlantic salmon based on ecosystem conditions.  


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Here we are outside the conference venue, the beautiful aquarium in La Rochelle.

3 Comments

I see you stay close to the "Boutique"...
It's funny cause what you feel about salmon, I feel it for zooplankton: a lifeform affected by a lot of different forcing, whose dynamics is an integrative response to the environmental variability... But salmon is arguably tastier!

My French is terrible, so apologies to Sigrid and Fred if I'm getting this wildly wrong. My understanding is that "marines" refers to people that work on the sea, like say, sailors or marine scientists. I believe that "tortues" has the same root as "torture" in English. So, my best guess is that Kathy and Carrie narrowly escaped being featured in an exhibition on how to torture people that work on the sea. From the poster, I surmise that turtles are involved in some diabolical way. Glad you made it back. Hope Sigrid stays away from La Rochelle.

Interesting comment, Andy, and it is fitting in a weird way. The torture and turtles came in because the speaker podium was right it front of a huge tank with lots of fish and two beautiful turtles--a green and hawksbill I think. Unfortunately, the conference sessions started each morning by drawing black curtains over the tank so that we wouldn't be distracted by the turtles' graceful swimming! So we only had a couple of short opportunities to admire the turtles during the meeting, and there was a short period of sadness in the auditorium each morning when the curtains came out to hide them.

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This page contains a single entry by kmills published on October 18, 2011 3:26 PM.

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