Observations relevant to the North American stock complex of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., suggest that marine mortality is influenced by variation in predation pressure affecting post-smolts during the first months at sea. This hypothesis was tested for Gulf of Maine (GOM) stocks by examining wind pseudostress and the distribution of piscivorous predator fields potentially affecting post-smolts. Marine survival has declined over recent decades with a change in the direction of spring winds, which is likely extending the migration of post-smolts by favouring routes using the western GOM. In addition to changes in spring wind patterns, higher spring sea surface temperatures have been associated with shifting distributions of a range of fish species. The abundance of several pelagic piscivores, which based on their feeding habits may predate on salmon post-smolts, has increased in the areas that serve as migration corridors for post-smolts. In particular, populations of silver hake, Merluccius bilinearis (Mitchell), red hake, Urophycis chuss (Walbaum), and spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias L., increased in size in the portion of the GOM used by post-smolts. Climate variation and shifting predator distributions in the GOM are consistent with the predator hypothesis of recruitment control suggested for the stock complex.
Additional publication details
Variation in wind and piscivorous predator fields affecting the survival of Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, in the Gulf of Maine