Influence of Climate on Young Salmon Provides Clues to Future of World’s Largest Sockeye Run

Juneau, Alaska (NOAA) – New study explores how different climate conditions affect juvenile sockeye salmon.

NOAA scientists looked at juvenile sockeye salmon in relation to prey, competitors and sea surface temperature.

The world’s largest run of sockeye salmon begins in Bristol Bay river systems that flow into the Bering Sea.

There young salmon face a crucial bottleneck: they must find good food and conditions so they can store enough fat to survive their first winter at sea.

Understanding how climate drives survival during this critical life stage is key to predicting future salmon returns in a rapidly changing ecosystem.   

A new study explores how climate influences survival of salmon—both directly through temperature, and indirectly through cascading effects on their food.

Researchers looked at shifts in distribution and abundance of juvenile sockeye salmon in the Bering Sea in relation to temperature, prey, and competitors.

The 17-year study (2002–2018) encompassed warm and cool conditions.

The findings will help scientists more accurately predict future change to inform sustainable management and help fishing communities prepare for the future.

“Understanding how young salmon and their prey responded to past ecosystem change gives us a clue to what will happen in the future,” said study leader Ellen Yasumiishi, NOAA Fisheries biologist, Alaska Fisheries Science Center. “We want to know what’s driving the number of salmon returns so we can give fishermen an early outlook on what to expect.”

Read more about this new study