Boris Espinasse

and 5 more

The stock-specific distribution of maturing and adult salmon in the Northeast (NE) Pacific has been a persistent information gap that has prevented us from determining the ocean conditions experienced by individual stocks. This continues to impede understanding of the role of ocean conditions in stock-specific population dynamics. We assessed scale archives for 17 sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) stocks covering the entire North Pacific, from the Columbia River to Kamchatka Peninsula, to define salmon locations during their last growing season before returning to their spawning grounds. We used the relationship between δ13C in salmon scales and sea water temperature to estimate salmon distribution based on correlation strength. Significant correlations were found for 13 of the stocks allowing us to define feeding grounds with confidence. Complementary information from δ15N, historical tagging studies, and connectivity analysis were used to further refine distribution estimates. Based on the estimated distributions of the NE Pacific stocks, we suggest a sequence of steps that could result in salmon marine distributions. This study is a first step toward determining stock-specific distributions of salmon in the NE Pacific, and provides a basis for the application of the approach to other salmon scale archives. This information will improve our ability to relate stock dynamics to ocean conditions, ultimately enabling improved stock management. For example, our estimated distributions of Bristol Bay and NE Pacific stocks demonstrated that they occupy different areas with a number of the former being distributed in the high productivity shelf waters of the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. This may explain while these stocks seem to have responded differently to changes in ocean conditions, and the long term trend of increased productivity of Bristol Bay sockeye.