To test the utility of otolith chemical composition as a tool for determining the natal stream of origin for salmon, we examined water chemistry and otoliths of juvenile and adult Chum Salmon Oncorhynchus keta and Coho Salmon O. kisutch from three watersheds (five rivers) in the Norton Sound region of Alaska. The two species are characterized by different life histories: Coho Salmon rear in freshwater for up to 3 years, whereas Chum Salmon emigrate from freshwater shortly after emergence. We used laser ablation (LA) inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometry (MS) to quantify element: Ca ratios for Mg, Mn, Zn, Sr, and Ba, and we used multicollector LA-ICP-MS to determine 87Sr:86Sr ratios in otolith regions corresponding to the period of freshwater residence. Significant differences existed in both water and otolith elemental composition, suggesting that otolith composition could be used to discriminate the natal origin of Coho Salmon and Chum Salmon but only when 87Sr:86Sr ratios were included in the discriminant function analyses. The best discriminant model included 87Sr:86Sr ratios, and without 87Sr:86Sr ratios it was difficult to discriminate among watersheds and rivers. Classification accuracy was 80% for Coho Salmon and 68% for Chum Salmon, indicating that this method does not provide sufficient sensitivity to estimate straying rates of Pacific salmon at the scale we studied.
Additional publication details
Species and life-history affects the utility of otolith chemical composition to determine natal stream-of-origin in Pacific salmon