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Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Reports

Formal report series, containing results of research and monitoring carried out by Marine Scotland Science


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The demography of a phenotypically mixed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) population as discerned for an eastern Scottish river

Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 6 No 12

It is widely acknowledged that Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) sub-stocks exist in Scottish rivers. These sub-stocks are associated with diverse life-histories, relating to different environments and pressures. However, there are significant challenges associated with the analysis of populations at the sub-river scale. This report investigates the potential for assessment of fish populations at a sub-river scale. A sophisticated mathematical model was used to separate salmon from a single river (North Esk, eastern Scotland) into three sub-stocks, based on the number of years the adults have spent at sea (their sea-age) and the month of the year in which the adults return to freshwater to breed (their run-timing).

Gurney, W.S.C., Bacon, P.J., Malcolm, I.A., Maclean, J.C. and Youngson, A.F. (2015) The demography of a phenotypically mixed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) population as discerned for an eastern Scottish river. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 6 No 12. Edinburgh: Scottish Government, 72pp. DOI: 10.7489/1662-1
Release Date
Spatial / Geographical Coverage Location
Temporal Coverage
2015-01-01 to 2015-12-31
UK Open Government Licence (OGL)
Gurney, W.S.C.
Data Dictionary

Modelling an Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) population as three phenotypically homogeneous sub-stocks showed different sub-stock dynamics and time-trends, a finding which was robust to three quite extreme variations of marine-mortality scenarios. A process-centred demographic analysis of a phenotypically mixed population (river North Esk, eastern Scotland) separated the life-cycle into two portions: density-dependent (spawner to smolt), represented by a stock-recruitment relationship; density-independent at sea and in both the estuary and river during return to spawning sites. Extensive data spanning three decades was judiciously used to parameterise the model for three phenotypically distinct sub-stocks (early-running multi-sea-winter; late-running multi-sea-winter; and one-sea-winter). Quantification of different population parameters was achieved for the putative sub-stocks, illuminating historical population-trends and underlying mechanisms. The approach forms a template for similar model decompositions at other rivers with similar data. Broad implications for salmon management more widely included the enhanced benefits of a process-based life-cycle model that described more phenotypically homogeneous sub-stocks (than a single-stock formulation) for the transport of population parameter values (or derived Biological Reference Points) from well documented (parameter-donor) catchments to data-sparse (parameter-recipient) catchments.

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Marine Scotland Science
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