Warm Waters Not Great for Juvenile Salmon

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SciShort_12_22_15Results from a new study by OSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that warmer waters drastically affect the hunting patterns and general health of juvenile Chinook salmon in the Pacific Ocean. In other words, more great news from the climate change front.

The results were published in the scientific journal PLOS One, and they basically show that during warmer water periods, the salmon have to work harder for their food and that the food they do get is less calorically satisfying, meaning they eat a lot more but weigh a lot less.

Elizabeth Daly worked on the study. She’s a senior research assistant at the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies, which is a joint venture between OSU and NOAA. She commented on the findings in a press release.

“Our long-term data set contradicts the long-held assumption that salmon eat less during warm-water regimes,” said Daly. “They actually eat more. But they still don’t fare as well. When the water is warm, salmon are smaller and thinner.”

The study looked at 19 years of data on juvenile salmon to come to its conclusions. Among them they discovered that in the warm water years the salmon eat almost only fish, but in the cold water years they get a lot of krill and other fatty delicious things that plump them up.

Things aren’t looking great right now because the water has been warm for the last couple years because of an El Niño event.

“So far this year, we’ve seen a lot of juvenile salmon with empty stomachs,” Daly said in the release. “The pressure to find food is going to be great. Of those fish that did have food in their stomachs, there was an unusual amount of juvenile rockfish and no signs of Pacific sand lance or krill.”

 In other words, as I often intone at the end of these dispatches on OSU climate change research, we’re all f*cked. Happy holidays.

By Sidney Reilly

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