BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal
Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget
see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations
Title of project
Nutritional Status of Emigrating Salmon and Steelhead in the Columbia R. Basin Mainstem
BPA project number 5500700
Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
U. S. Department of Energy
Sponsor type TN-Federal Agency
Proposal contact person or principal investigator
|Name||Dr. S. Marshall Adams|
|Mailing address||Oak Ridge National Laboratory
P. O. Box 2008, MS 6036
Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6036
BPA technical contact Bob Austin, EWI 503/230-5213
Biological opinion ID Numbers 13, 13b, 13h
NWPPC Program number
Project establishes whether migrating juveniles in the mainstem S. and C. rivers (ID & mid-Columbia to Bonneville Dam) are adequately fed or starving, which is important because starvation leads to poor survival from many causes e.g. predation , disease.
Project start year 1997 End year 1999
Start of operation and/or maintenance 0
Project development phase Implementation
The NMFS has some food chain research (Muir), but it is not similar.
to this proposal.
Biological results achieved
Annual reports and technical papers
Specific measureable objectives
The objective is to quantitatively establish the nutritional
status, particularly seeking physiological indicators of starvation, of
juvenile salmon and steelhead during their migration from the Salmon and
Clearwater rivers, Idaho and the mid-Columbia River, Washington to
A three-part hypothesis is proposed, (1) that emigrating salmonids
from the Snake River tributaries will become progressively malnourished and
enter a starvation or near-starvation condition during their migration
through Snake River mainstem reservoirs where food resources are scarce,
(2) that salmonids from the mid-Columbia will have adequate feeding in
riverine reaches (e.g., Hanford) and be well nourished, and (3) fish in the
lower Columbia River mainstem reservoirs will be reasonably well nourished
where estuarine invertebrates appear to have replaced riverine food chains.
Poor nutrition may be linked to poor survival through starvation-induced
mortality in the Snake River in comparison to mid-Columbia stocks.
Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
Juvenile salmonids must feed to maintain energy reserves during
outmigration. The normal riverine food chain (largely chironomids) seen in
the unimpounded Columbia and Snake rivers, at Hanford, and in the Snake
River tributaries (Clearwater and Salmon rivers) is unavailable in the
Snake River reservoirs, where Curet (1985) observed poor energetic balance
in downstream migrants. In the lower Columbia River reservoirs, estuarine
invertebrates (particularly the amphipod Corophium) have replaced riverine
food sources (Kolok and Rondorf 1987; Muir and Emmett 1988). A theoretical
case can be made that the Snake River reservoirs may cause starvation
(which may ultimately result in mortality of many migrants) because neither
the freshwater nor estuarine food chain is available and reservoir food
sources (e.g., lake plankton) are deficient.
This study will evaluate nurtitional status of juvenile salmonids
during outmigration by examining sampled fish for key anatomical and
physiological indices of nutrition and starvation stress. These indices
will include a suite of parameters known from the literature, and include
liver-somatic index, liver glycogen, liver lipids (trigycerides),
mesenteric fat, gall bladder size and color, and several proximate measures
of starvation such as relative content of body lipids, water, and total
ash. There are also blood parameters that are indicators of starvation,
including serum glucose, triglycerides and hematocrit. Based on this suite
of parameters, an integrative index of starvation and nutritive status will
be developed and applied that will both test the current hypothesis and be
useful for long-term salmonid monitoring (such as in the Fish Passage
Center's Smolt Monitoring Program). Stomachs will be preserved so that any
food items found can be correlated with nutritional status.
Fish will be obtained through existing sampling programs with
cooperation of the Idaho Fish and Game Department and the Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife (tributaries), the Fish Passage Center
(mainstem dams), Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (mainstem
in-river sampling), and other sources designed to minimize the take of live
fish (for example, we could use fish already sacrificed for GBT
monitoring). Most biopsies can be conducted in field labs (e.g., FPC
monitoring sites) or fish can be returned to ORNL frozen. Chemical
analyses would be conducted at ORNL.
Statistical analyses appropriate for the data collected in the
first year will be explored. After initial study in year 1, a statistical
analysis would be conducted to estimate optimum sample sizes needed in the
subsequent year for a desired level of statistical significance for testing
differences in nutritional status between river-reservoir reaches and
species/stocks. We propose to separately examine fall underyearlings,
spring chinook yearlings, and steelhead yearlings. We will segregate early
and late migrants of the respective stock outmigrations. Numbers will be
limited by availability of already-sampled fish.
Brief schedule of activities
October 1996-February 1997: establishment of memoranda of
understanding with cooperating agencies and tribes.
January-March 1997: ORNL preparation for receiving field
collections and setup for assays of fish.
April-June 1997: receipt of fish from primary sampling organizatins
and biological and chemical examinations/analyses.
June-December 1997: Completion of analyses on frozen specimens,
evaluation of data, development of an integrative starvation index,
preparation of progress report.
January-February 1998: preparation of revised study plan based on
1997 sampling and analyses.
March-June 1998: receipt of fish from primary samplers and
biological and chemical analyses.
June-December 1998: completion of analyses and preparation of
January-February 1999: Evaluation of 2 years of study to determine
if the hypothesis needs further testing.
March-June 1999: Possible continuation of sampling and analysis,
July-September 1999: Completion of evaluations and preparation of
progress report and open-literature manuscript (could be earlier if results
are clear in 1998).
Because salmonids feed in their downstream migration, survival
likely depends on their nutritional status as well as on characteristics of
migration (e.g., travel time). Fish that may be weakened by poor nutrition
in passage through the Snake River reservoirs probably have reduced
survival compared to that of well-fed fish. Starvation and poor
nutritional status renders fish more susceptible to mortality from numerous
causes, including parasites, disease, and increased predation (there is a
well estblished literature, including Shul'man 1974). Salmonids from the
mid-Columbia (where the Hanford reach preserves a riverine food chain) are
known to have better survival than those from the Snake River. Replacement
of a riverine food chain by an estuarine one in lower Columbia River
reservoirs suggests that an alternative food chain is operating there.
Documentation of nutritional status is thus important for assessment of
survival probablilities in various river-reservoir reaches.
The critical uncertainty for evaluating the role of feeding and
food resource availability on survival of salmonids is the nutritional
status of migrating juvenile salmonids through the Columbia-Snake
river-reservoir system from upstream riverine reaches, through a zone of
apparent low food availability, to a zone where alternative food
(estuarine) is used.
Summary of expected outcome
The study should have two outcomes. First, it should determine
whether the hypothesized low nutritional status of juvenile salmonids in
the Snake River reservoirs is true and establish reach-specific nutritional
status for migrants throughout the system. With this information, the
importance of food chains for salmonid survival can be evaluated and
measures taken (if appropraite) to include food chain considerations in
Second, the study should result in the development of an
integrative index of starvation for the juvenile salmonids of the basin
that could be used in subsequent years for routine monitoring of nutritive
status in migrants, such as in the Smolt Monitoring Program. The index
could be as useful as the Quantitative Health Assessment Index developed at
ORNL by Adams et al. (1993) and used by numerous agencies in North America.
Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
We will depend on on-going sampling to provide all fish specimens.
Thus, cooperation with other investigators is essential, particularly those
involved in the smolt monitoring activities of the Fish Pasage Center and
the state agencies monitoring in tributaries. We will need field
laboratory space for initial gross biopsies, probably at current smolt
monitoring sites. Some biopsies might be conducted by existing smolt
monitoring personnel, in which case ORNL would provide training. These
arrangements have not yet been made. The unique expertise of ORNL staff
for this project is in the development and use of physiological indices of
fish health and responses to environmental stressors.
No added risks are expected to fish populations because only fish collected for other purposes will be used. There are no health risks to
study personnel from the well-established assay procedures.
There is little risk of methodological failure because these assay
procedures have been applied successfully by ORNL staff in other fish
populations (reprints are available on request).
The project's near-term success will be measured by conclusions in
reports, both Bonneville progress reports and open literature publications.
The ultimate success will be measured by the usefulness of the results for
evaluating the major causes of mortality in migrating juvenile salmonids in
the Columbia River basin (i.e., whether starvation is a major source of
|Historic costs||FY 1996 budget data*||Current and future funding needs|
|(none)||New project - no FY96 data available||1997: 200,000|
* For most projects, Authorized is the amount recommended by CBFWA and the Council. Planned is amount currently allocated. Contracted is the amount obligated to date of printout.
CBFWA funding review group Mainstem
Recommendation Tier 2 - fund when funds available
Recommended funding level $200,000