We performed a series of analyses of mark-recapture data from a study at The Dalles Dam during 2010 to determine if model assumptions for estimation of juvenile salmonid dam-passage survival were met and if results were similar to those using the University of Washington's newly developed ATLAS software. The study was conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and used acoustic telemetry of yearling Chinook salmon, juvenile steelhead, and subyearling Chinook salmon released at three sites according to the new virtual/paired-release statistical model. This was the first field application of the new model, and the results were used to measure compliance with minimum survival standards set forth in a recent Biological Opinion. Our analyses indicated that most model assumptions were met. The fish groups mixed in time and space, and no euthanized tagged fish were detected. Estimates of reach-specific survival were similar in fish tagged by each of the six taggers during the spring, but not in the summer. Tagger effort was unevenly allocated temporally during tagging of subyearling Chinook salmon in the summer; the difference in survival estimates among taggers was more likely a result of a temporal trend in actual survival than of tagger effects. The reach-specific survival of fish released at the three sites was not equal in the reaches they had in common for juvenile steelhead or subyearling Chinook salmon, violating one model assumption. This violation did not affect the estimate of dam-passage survival, because data from the common reaches were not used in its calculation. Contrary to expectation, precision of survival estimates was not improved by using the most parsimonious model of recapture probabilities instead of the fully parameterized model. Adjusting survival estimates for differences in fish travel times and tag lives increased the dam-passage survival estimate for yearling Chinook salmon by 0.0001 and for juvenile steelhead by 0.0004. The estimate was unchanged for subyearling Chinook salmon. The tag-life-adjusted dam-passage survival estimates from our analyses were 0.9641 (standard error [SE] 0.0096) for yearling Chinook salmon, 0.9534 (SE 0.0097) for juvenile steelhead, and 0.9404 (SE 0.0091) for subyearling Chinook salmon. These were within 0.0001 of estimates made by the University of Washington using the ATLAS software. Contrary to the intent of the virtual/paired-release model to adjust estimates of the paired-release model downward in order to account for differential handling mortality rates between release groups, random variation in survival estimates may result in an upward adjustment of survival relative to estimates from the paired-release model. Further investigation of this property of the virtual/paired-release model likely would prove beneficial. In addition, we suggest that differential selective pressures near release sites of the two control groups could bias estimates of dam-passage survival from the virtual/paired-release model.
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USGS Numbered Series
Analysis of dam-passage survival of yearling and subyearling Chinook salmon and juvenile steelhead at The Dalles Dam, Oregon, 2010