The importance of interspecific competition as a mechanism regulating population abundance in offshore marine communities is largely unknown. We evaluated offshore competition between Asian pink salmon and Bristol Bay (Alaska) sockeye salmon, which intermingle in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, using the unique biennial abundance cycle of Asian pink salmon from 1955 to 2000. Sockeye salmon growth during the second and third growing seasons at sea, as determined by scale measurements, declined significantly in odd-numbered years, corresponding to years when Asian pink salmon are most abundant. Bristol Bay sockeye salmon do not interact with Asian pink salmon during their first summer and fall seasons and no difference in first year scale growth was detected. The interaction with odd-year pink salmon led to significantly smaller size at age of adult sockeye salmon, especially among younger female salmon. Examination of sockeye salmon smolt to adult survival rates during 1977-97 indicated that smolts entering the ocean during even-numbered years and interacting with abundant odd-year pink salmon during the following year experienced 26% (age-2 smolt) to 45% (age-1 smolt) lower survival compared with smolts migrating during odd-numbered years. Adult sockeye salmon returning to Bristol Bay from even-year smolt migrations were 22% less abundant (reduced by 5.9 million fish per year) compared with returns from odd-year migrations. The greatest reduction in adult returns occurred among adults spending 2 compared with 3 years at sea. Our new evidence for interspecific competition highlights the need for multispecies, international management of salmon production, including salmon released from hatcheries into the ocean.
Additional publication details
Competition between Asian pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and Alaskan sockeye salmon (O. nerka) in the North Pacific Ocean