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Tracking Salmon Like Never Before!

By Pacific Salmon Foundation, 🕔Tue, Dec 12th, 2017


The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project was started from popular scientific consensus that the majority of salmon were dying as juveniles before they headed out to sea. While we know that millions of juvenile salmon migrate through the Strait of Georgia and Johnstone Strait, we don't know their migration rates, or paths, or their natural survival through these regions. In short where are they dying and why?

How do we study this? We use acoustic tags that 'ping' as they pass strings of receivers on the sea floor. These tiny tags, less then half a gram in weight, transmit unique signals that identify individual fish allowing researchers to determine migration paths and survival rates.

We need to raise $450,000 annually to keep the Project going at full speed. When you make a year-end tax-receiptable donation by December 31st, 2017, your donation will be matched! And every $100 donation will recieve one entry to win a TR3 reel and rod donated by Islander Reels.

Tiny Technology – A Big Leap Forward
V4 and V7 acoustic tags

The much smaller V4 tag has enabled tracking of much smaller fish

For more than a decade, scientists have successfully tracked larger smolts, but it was not technically possible to tag the smaller smolts using the existing V7 tags. Thanks to our donors and Kintama technologies, the Salish Sea Marine survival Project helped introduce and successfully test the much smaller V4 acoustic tag now available. The new innovation was a big step forward for tracking technology – particularly in the Chilko River.

V4 tag is surgically implanted into a smolt

A V4 tag is surgically implanted into a smolt

Sockeye from the Chilko River account for almost a quarter of Sockeye in the Fraser, and there is a wealth of data on their behavior. As such, they are often used as an indicator stock to help forecast Sockeye returns  and understand survival of other Sockeye populations. While there has been much success in tracking two-year smolts, the majority of smolts leaving the Chilko are the much smaller one-year smolts. The new V4 tags will make tracking these tiny smolts possible and improve the accuracy of forecasts for fisheries management.

What We Learned

In 2016, we observed that half of the tagged Fraser River Sockeye smolts which migrated through Discovery Channel showed very high survival. In contrast, the other half, which used the narrow channels between various islands experienced about half of the survival rates. Even though fish using these narrow channels would have high exposure to salmon farms, it would be very brief and transmission of pathogens could not account for the mortalities measured with these acoustic tags. Any associated mortality with disease would occur weeks after exposure.

An array is installed in the Cowichan

A tracking receiver is installed on the bottom of the Cowichan River.

Though our field work is done, our community partners will continue to monitor returning salmon using infrastructure developed through the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.

Win a TR3 Reel

Please consider making a donation today. For every $100 you donate you will receive one entry to win a TR3 reel and mooching rod donated by Islander Reels. 2018 will be the last year of the Project and we need your help! Our scientists are busy analyzing an unprecedented amount of data on the Strait of Georgia with the goal of developing recommendations for recovery. We need to raise $450,000 annually to keep this project going at full speed and your year-end fundraising efforts are a major source of this annual support.
Help us ensure wild salmon for the future. Tight lines.

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