BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal

Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget

see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations

Section 1. Administrative

Title of project
Relation of Plume/Nearshore Conditions to Smolt Distribution and Growth

BPA project number   5517400

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding

Sponsor type   Placeholder

Proposal contact person or principal investigator

 Mailing address

BPA technical contact   ,

Biological opinion ID   Research M&E Program; hyp D.1.1

NWPPC Program number   

Short description
Effects of changes in this marine zone on distribution and growth of Col. River smolts.

Project start year   1997    End year   2007

Start of operation and/or maintenance   0

Project development phase   PLANNING

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects

Project history

Biological results achieved

Annual reports and technical papers

Management implications
Evidence from jack returns and other sources indicates that the first few months of ocean life have great influence on survival from smolt to adult (Pearcy 1992). The volume and characteristics of the Columbia River plume have changed in response to upstream water storage and flow management. The effects of changes are little-known. Managers may elect to manipulate populations of predators and prey to increase smolt survival. An example of the utility of information obtained in the nearshore zone is the observation by Canadian researchers of intense mackerel predation on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in 1992 and 1993. If those researchers had not been working in the area, our understanding of reasons for the very poor adult salmon returns in the Pacific Northwest in 1994 and 1995 would be much poorer. Eventually, managers may acquire sufficient understanding to manipulate hatchery products and smolt arrival in the nearshore zone to optimize survival. Better understanding of the ecology of salmon in the marine environment will help resource managers to better evaluate effects of manipulations of conditions in the migration corridor of the Columbia River. The SRRP [Task No. 2.11.a.] calls for investigation of environmental requirements of juvenile salmonids in the estuary and nearshore ocean. Since about 1983, very little salmonid related biological oceanography has been conducted off the Washington and Oregon coast. What research has been done suggests physical and biological conditions in these waters have changed, beginning about 1977. These changes may be significant factors in the general trend in decreasing ocean survival documented since that time in many, if not most, Northwest salmonid stocks.

Specific measureable objectives

Testable hypothesis

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints

The early years of research in this project will necessarily be descriptive and correlative. We know very little about ocean distribution of spring migrant salmon, beyond the fact that they tend to move northward along the shelf in the first weeks of ocean life. That they stay along the shelf for some time may be indicated by the near failure of the 1992 and 1993 smolt cohorts, apparently decimated by mackerel, which apparently used the shelf to the north of the Columbia River and along Vancouver Island in those years. While experimental modification of the environment is all but impossible, apart from modifications in the discharge of the Columbia River, it is imperative for managers to better understand the nearshore region and its influence upon salmon production. This project will involve placement of data-logger buoys for temperature, salinity, and other characteristics of the water column. Those data loggers can be accessed by satellite interrogators for delivery of real-time information. Ships of opportunity will be used for sampling as appropriate.

Hydrographic transects will be established for periodic sampling of physical and biological variates along the Northwest Coast. This will consist of three parallel hydrographic lines, one off the Columbia River, one off Oregon (e.g., Newport) and one off Washington. Biological data collected will include abundance and seasonal changes in zooplankton and neuston; and age, growth, condition, and distribution of salmonids and their food. Scales and otoliths will be collected and examined for information on growth. Distribution and migration paths of young salmonids will be assessed.

Brief schedule of activities

Biological need
Various researchers have shown that the first few weeks of ocean life determine recruitment of juveniles to the adult life stage. The nearshore ocean is a difficult environment to study systematically with fish sampling gear in spring, when weather is undependable. The important fish sampling phase is from mid-May through mid-August.

A long-term investigation of ecology of smolts in this region is imperative. The near-shore ecology of juvenile salmon has received insufficient attention. An investigation should include systematic sampling of physical and biological oceanographic factors, including salinity, temperature, currents, nutrient availability, and vertebrate and invertebrate densities in the water column. In addition, researchers should systematically sample fish populations, obtaining data on distributions, population structure, growth, and food habits. Some evidence exists that reduced food abundance in periods of poor upwelling leads to slowed growth, hence higher losses to predators as juveniles remain in predator-vulnerable small sizes longer.

Critical uncertainties

Summary of expected outcome

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation


Monitoring activity

Section 3. Budget

Data shown are the total of expense and capital obligations by fiscal year. Obligations for any given year may not equal actual expenditures or accruals within the year, due to carryover, pre-funding, capitalization and difference between operating year and BPA fiscal year.

Historic costsFY 1996 budget data*Current and future funding needs
(none) New project - no FY96 data available 1997: 1,000,000
1998: 1,000,000
1999: 1,000,000
2000: 1,000,000
2001: 1,000,000

* 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.

Funding recommendations

CBFWA funding review group   System Policy

Recommendation    Tier 2 - fund when funds available

Recommended funding level   $1,000,000