Early mortality syndrome in fry of Great Lakes salmonines is linked to reduced levels of thiamine in eggs, which reflects maternal consumption of forage fishes such as alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) that contain thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys thiamine. We assessed annual variations in abundance and condition of alewives and thiamine status of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in Lake Ontario. We analyzed total thiamine in eggs of 20 coho salmon collected annually between 2003 and 2006 at the Salmon River Hatchery on the Salmon River, New York. Alewife abundance was assessed annually in southern and eastern Lake Ontario with bottom trawls during late April and early May. Mean thiamine concentration in eggs varied annually, with those collected in 2003 (2.5 nmol/g) being significantly higher than those collected in 2004 to 2006 (1.5 to 1.7 nmol/g). Although we did not test survival of fry, if reported threshold levels of thiamine for preventing mortality of Lake Michigan coho salmon fry apply, then many or most Lake Ontario coho salmon produced fry were likely to incur thiamine-deficiency mortality, especially during years 2004 to 2006. Comparison to indices of annual abundance of alewife in Lake Ontario with thiamine concentration in coho salmon eggs failed to show any significant correlations (P > 0.05). However, total length of female spawning coho salmon was positively correlated (P < 0.05) with increasing condition and estimated energy content of adult alewives in the previous spring. These results suggest that growth of coho salmon in Lake Ontario was first limited by energy intake, whereas the amount of thiamine provided by alewives was sufficient for growth (in length) but not for producing thiamine-adequate eggs.
Additional publication details
Thiamine content of eggs and lengths of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in relation to abundance of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) in eastern Lake ontario, 2003 to 2006