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Evaluating fish rescue as a drought adaptation strategy using a life cycle modeling approach for imperiled coho salmon

February 22, 2021

Projected intensification of drought as a result of climate change may reduce the capacity of streams to rear fish, exacerbating the challenge of recovering salmonid populations listed under the Endangered Species Act. Without management intervention, some stocks will likely go extinct as stream drying and fragmentation reduce juvenile survival to unsustainable levels. To offset drought‐related mortality, fish rescue programs have proliferated, whereby juvenile salmonids are captured and transferred to off‐site rearing facilities. However, the efficacy of this potential conservation tool remains poorly understood. We developed a life cycle model to examine the implications of fish rescue on the abundance of Coho Salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch across serial life stages. The simulation model examines scenarios with varying quantities of rescued fish, time in captivity, drought severity, and reduced smolt‐to‐adult return rates. Our results indicate that fish rescue can increase the abundance of adults and lower extinction risk, particularly for fish held in captivity for a full year. However, fish rescue can also decrease the abundance of adults and increase extinction risk if fish are held only for summer and there is limited winter habitat. We found that when fish rescue did increase returns, it functioned more like a stock enhancement program than a drought mitigation tool and it would likely lead to consecutive generations of captive rearing, which has been shown to have negative effects on fitness. We translated our model into an R Shiny application (https://shiny.wdfw‐ that allows users to explore how fish rescue affects Coho Salmon population dynamics through customized parameterization of the model to represent different systems or different assumptions about the effects of fish rescue.

Publication Year 2021
Title Evaluating fish rescue as a drought adaptation strategy using a life cycle modeling approach for imperiled coho salmon
DOI 10.1002/nafm.10532
Authors Brittany A Beebe, Kale T Bentley, Thomas W. Buehrens, Russell Perry, Jonathan B. Armstrong
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title North American Journal of Fisheries Management
Index ID 70218256
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center