Bycatch is a common occurrence in heavily fished areas such as the Fraser River, British Columbia, where fisheries target returning adult Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) en route to spawning grounds. The extent to which these encounters reduce fish survival through injury and physiological impairment depends on multiple factors including capture severity, river temperature and infectious agents. In an effort to characterize the mechanisms of post-release mortality and address fishery and managerial concerns regarding specific regulations, wild-caught Early Stuart sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) were exposed to either mild (20 s) or severe (20 min) gillnet entanglement and then held at ecologically relevant temperatures throughout their period of river migration (mid-late July) and spawning (early August). Individuals were biopsy sampled immediately after entanglement and at death to measure indicators of stress and immunity, and the infection intensity of 44 potential pathogens. Biopsy alone increased mortality (males: 33%, females: 60%) when compared with nonbiopsied controls (males: 7%, females: 15%), indicating high sensitivity to any handling during river migration, especially among females. Mortality did not occur until 5-10 days after entanglement, with severe entanglement resulting in the greatest mortality (males: 62%, females: 90%), followed by mild entanglement (males: 44%, females: 70%). Infection intensities of Flavobacterium psychrophilum and Ceratonova shasta measured at death were greater in fish that died sooner. Physiological indicators of host stress and immunity also differed depending on longevity, and indicated anaerobic metabolism, osmoregulatory failure and altered immune gene regulation in premature mortalities. Together, these results implicate latent effects of entanglement, especially among females, resulting in mortality days or weeks after release. Although any entanglement is potentially detrimental, reducing entanglement durations can improve post-release survival.

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Keywords Bycatch, Fisheries, Gene expression, Infectious disease, Pacific salmon, Temperature
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Journal Conservation Physiology
Teffer, A.K. (Amy K.), Hinch, S.G. (Scott G.), Miller, K.M. (Kristi M.), Patterson, D.A. (David A.), Farrell, A.P. (Anthony P.), Cooke, S.J, … Juanes, F. (Francis). (2017). Capture severity, infectious disease processes and sex influence post-release mortality of sockeye salmon bycatch. Conservation Physiology, 5(1). doi:10.1093/conphys/cox017