Quantifying the Ocean, Freshwater and Human Effects on Year-to-Year Variability of One-Sea-Winter Atlantic Salmon Angled in Multiple Norwegian Rivers
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Many Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, populations are decreasing throughout the species' distributional range probably due to several factors acting in concert. A number of studies have documented the influence of freshwater and ocean conditions, climate variability and human impacts resulting from impoundment and aquaculture. However, most previous research has focused on analyzing single or only a few populations, and quantified isolated effects rather than handling multiple factors in conjunction. By using a multi-river mixed-effects model we estimated the effects of oceanic and river conditions, as well as human impacts, on year-to-year and between-river variability across 60 time series of recreational catch of one-sea-winter salmon (grilse) from Norwegian rivers over 29 years (1979–2007). Warm coastal temperatures at the time of smolt entrance into the sea and increased water discharge during upstream migration of mature fish were associated with higher rod catches of grilse. When hydropower stations were present in the course of the river systems the strength of the relationship with runoff was reduced. Catches of grilse in the river increased significantly following the reduction of the harvesting of this life-stage at sea. However, an average decreasing temporal trend was still detected and appeared to be stronger in the presence of salmon farms on the migration route of smolts in coastal/fjord areas. These results suggest that both ocean and freshwater conditions in conjunction with various human impacts contribute to shape interannual fluctuations and between-river variability of wild Atlantic salmon in Norwegian rivers. Current global change altering coastal temperature and water flow patterns might have implications for future grilse catches, moreover, positioning of aquaculture facilities as well as the implementation of hydropower schemes or other encroachments should be made with care when implementing management actions and searching for solutions to conserve this species.