Associations among fish length, dam passage history, and survival to adulthood in two at-risk species of Pacific salmon

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Authors James R. Faulkner, Blane L. Bellerud, Daniel L. Widener, Richard W. Zabel
Journal/Conference Name Transactions of the American Fisheries Society
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead originating in the Snake River basin must pass through a series of eight major hydroelectric dams during their seaward migration. Understanding the effects of specific dam passage routes on lifetime survival for these stocks is essential for successful management. Juvenile fish may pass these dams via three primary routes (1) spillways, (2) turbines, or (3) juvenile bypass systems, which divert fish away from turbines and route them downstream. Bypass systems may expose fish to trauma, increased stress, or disease. However, numerous studies have indicated that direct survival through bypass systems is comparable to and often higher than that through spillways. Some researchers have suggested that the route of dam passage affects mortality in the estuary or ocean, but this is complicated by studies finding that fish size affects the route of passage. We tested whether passage through bypass systems was associated with the probability of adult return after accounting for fish length and other covariates for two species of concern. We also investigated the association between fish length and the probability of bypass at dams and how this relationship could lead to spurious conclusions regarding effects of bypass systems on survival if length is ignored. We found that (1) larger fish had lower bypass probabilities at six of seven dams; (2) larger fish had a higher probability of surviving to adulthood; (3) bypass history had little association with adult return after accounting for fish length; and (4) simulations indicated that spurious effects of bypass on survival may arise when no true bypass effect exists, especially in models without length. Our results suggest that after fish leave the hydropower system, bypass passage history has little effect on mortality. Our findings underscore the importance of accounting for fish size in studies of dam passage or survival.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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