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Conservation of endemic landlocked salmonids in regulated rivers: a case-study from Lake Vänern, Sweden
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3191-7140
Karlstad University, Faculty of Social and Life Sciences, Department of Biology.
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2012 (English)In: Fish and Fisheries, ISSN 1467-2960, E-ISSN 1467-2979, Vol. 13, no 4, 418-433 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Conservation of migratory salmonids requires understanding their ecology at multiple scales, combined with assessing anthropogenic impacts. We present a case-study from over 100 years of data for the endemic landlocked Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar, Salmonidae) and brown trout (Salmo trutta, Salmonidae) in Lake Vänern, Sweden. We use this case-study to develop life history-based research and monitoring priorities for migratory salmonids. In Vänern, small wild populations of salmon and trout remain only in the heavily regulated Rivers Klar (Klarälven) and Gullspång (Gullspångsälven), and commercial and sport fisheries are maintained by hatchery stocking. These populations represent some of the last remaining large-bodied (up to 20 kg) landlocked salmon stocks worldwide. We found that one of four stocks of wild fish has increased since 1996; the other three remain critically low. Hatchery return rates for three of four stocks appear stable at roughly 1% and annual fisheries catch is roughly 75 metric tons, with an estimated 7.5% of hatchery smolts being recruited to the fishery; this also appears relatively stable since 1990. Our analysis reveals much uncertainty in key data requirements, including both river return and fisheries catch rates, estimates of wild smolt production and survival, and hatchery breeding and genetics protocols. These uncertainties, coupled with a lack of information on their riverine and lacustrine ecology, preclude effective management of these unique populations. We conclude with a framework for a life history-based approach to research and monitoring for Vänern salmon and trout, which should be applicable for all endemic, migratory salmonid populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 13, no 4, 418-433 p.
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-8799DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00437.xISI: 000310273500004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-8799DiVA: diva2:458444
Available from: 2011-11-23 Created: 2011-11-23 Last updated: 2015-11-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Landlocked Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. and trout Salmo trutta L. in the regulated River Klarälven, Sweden: Implications for conservation and management
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Landlocked Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. and trout Salmo trutta L. in the regulated River Klarälven, Sweden: Implications for conservation and management
2011 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Conservation and management of migratory salmonids requires an understanding of their ecology at multiple scales, and a holistic view, including assessment of historical and present anthropogenic impacts. In the regulated River Klarälven, with 11 hydropower dams, populations of landlocked Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and migratory brown trout Salmo trutta have declined due to human activities. Maintaining viable populations of salmon in the River Klarälven has high priority, given there are fewer than 10 native stocks of landlocked salmon in Europe. To date, natural smolt production has been maintained by collecting and transporting spawners past eight hydroelectric plants in the river, where they are released to spawn. No functioning fish passage facilities are available that allow the fish to return to the lake. To evaluate the situation for landlocked salmon and migratory trout in Lake Vänern and the River Klarälven, an analysis of catch and river return data, based on data sets covering time periods from 15 to 200 years, was performed. In addition, the loss rates and behavior of downstream-migrating wild salmon smolts as they swam past eight power stations in the regulated River Klarälven was quantified.

For the migration study, wild salmon smolts were tagged with acoustic transmitters, and the smolts were monitored as they swam along a 180 km long river segment, including eight dams, with regulated and unregulated stretches. The loss due to HEP passages was estimated to be 76%, which contrasts with the 8% loss along unregulated control stretches. Kaplan-Meier estimations showed that only 16% of the smolts passed all eight dams. Migration speed was 83% lower along regulated stretches than along unregulated stretches, and migration speed at regulated stretches was dependent on fish size, with large fish moving slower than small fish.

The analysis of historical data showed that annual returns of wild salmon are less than 3% of what they were at the beginning of the 19th century. Returns of wild trout are even lower, with just some 30 fish caught annually. Lack of basic ecological information, as river return and fisheries catch rates, estimates of wild smolt production and survival, and releases of hatchery-reared fish, complicate an effective management of these unique populations. There is need for coordination of present and future research, monitoring, and restoration strategies. In this thesis I identify some measures to improve the status of the River Klarälven salmon and trout that should be of broad interest to resource and fishery managers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstad University, 2011. 26 p.
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2011:53
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-8523 (URN)978-91-7063-389-8 (ISBN)
Presentation
2011-11-25, Erlandersalen, 11D 227, Karlstad, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-11-23 Created: 2011-10-11 Last updated: 2011-11-23Bibliographically approved
2. Migration and quality of landlocked Atlantic salmon smolt: Implications for conservation and management
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Migration and quality of landlocked Atlantic salmon smolt: Implications for conservation and management
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Atlantic salmon Salmo salar has a complex life cycle, including long migrations and habitat shifts for both juveniles and adults. As such, salmon populations are vulnerable to habitat degradation and fragmentation along their migratory routes. This makes management and conservation a complex task requiring knowledge of salmon ecology at different temporal and spatial scales. In this thesis I highlight the use of a holistic life-history based approach in the conservation and management of wild and hatchery-reared salmon in regulated rivers and lakes.

Small populations of wild-reproducing landlocked salmon and trout Salmo trutta exist in the regulated River Klarälven, Sweden. Since the 1930s, transportation of adult spawners upstream of eight dams has given the fish access to spawning grounds. The number of returning wild spawners became critically low in the 1960s, but stocking of hatchery smolts resulted in an increase in spawners that continues today. My data show that wild smolt may suffer high mortality due to multiple dam passages. To ensure viable populations of wild populations, future management should include both up- and downstream solutions that ensure connectivity in the system.

The recreational and commercial salmonid fishery are maintained by compensatory stockings, yielding annual catches of about 75 tons, and a river return rate of hatchery fish of about 1%. As a large portion of the stocked smolts does not survive downstream migration to the lake, there has been discussion about the quality of the stocked smolt and about stocking strategies. Based on my studies, producing hatchery smolts more closely resembling wild-born conspecifics should result in reduced loss rates. I suggest changes in the hatchery and stocking procedures to increase the survival of stocked smolts. The results of my research should be applicable to other regulated systems, particularly those with mixed stocks of wild and hatchery salmonid populations.

Abstract [en]

Atlantic salmon Salmo salar has a complex life cycle, including long migrations and habitat shifts for both juveniles and adults. As such, salmon populations are vulnerable to habitat degradation and fragmentation along their migratory routes, which make management and conservation a complex task requiring knowledge of salmon ecology at different temporal and spatial scales. In this thesis, I highlight the use of a holistic approach in the conservation and management of wild and hatchery-reared salmon in regulated rivers and lakes.

Small populations of wild-reproducing landlocked salmon and trout Salmo trutta exist in the regulated River Klarälven, Sweden. Since 1930, transportation of adult spawners upstream of eight dams has been done to give the fish access to the spawning grounds. My data indicate that a large proportion of the wild smolts are lost due to multiple dam passages, and future management should include both up- and downstream solutions, ensuring connectivity in the system. The fishery in Klarälven and Lake Vänern is maintained by compensatory stockings, yielding catches of about 75 metric tons and a river return rate of stocked fish of about 1%. I suggest changes in the hatchery and stocking procedures to increase the survival of stocked smolts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2014. 43 p.
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2014:29
Keyword
acoustic telemetry, hatchery, life history, migration mortality, regulated rivers, Salmo salar, salmon, smolt, trout
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-31980 (URN)978-91-7063-561-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-06-05, Erlandersalen, Universitetsgatan 2, Karlstad, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-05-15 Created: 2014-04-25 Last updated: 2016-08-16Bibliographically approved

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