We investigated the efficacy of management to reduce the impact of Caspian tern (Sterna caspia) predation on survival of juvenile salmonids (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the Columbia River estuary. Resource managers sought to relocate approximately 9,000 pairs of terns nesting on Rice Island (river km 34) to East Sand Island (river km 8), where terns were expected to prey on fewer juvenile salmonids. Efforts to attract terns to nest on East Sand Island included creation of nesting habitat, use of social attraction techniques, and predator control, with concurrent efforts to discourage terns from nesting on Rice Island. This approach was successful in completely relocating the tern colony from Rice Island to East Sand Island by the third breeding season. Juvenile salmonids decreased and marine forage fishes (i.e., herring, sardine, anchovy, smelt, surfperch, Pacific sand lance) increased in the diet of Caspian terns nesting on East Sand Island, compared with terns nesting on Rice Island. During 1999 and 2000, the diet of terns nesting on Rice Island consisted of 77% and 90% juvenile salmonids, respectively, while during 1999, 2000, and 2001, the diet of terns nesting on East Sand Island consisted of 46%, 47%, and 33% juvenile salmonids, respectively. Nesting success of Caspian terns was consistently and substantially higher on East Sand Island than on Rice Island. These results indicate that relocating the Caspian tern colony was an effective management action for reducing predation on juvenile salmonids without harm to the population of breeding terns, at least in the short term. The success of this management approach largely was a consequence of the nesting and foraging ecology of Caspian terns: the species shifts breeding colony sites frequently in response to changing habitats, and the species is a generalist forager, preying on the most available forage fish near the colony.
Additional publication details
Effects of colony relocation on diet and productivity of Caspian terns