Effective dam management requires an understanding of the ecological impact of a facility and its operations on individual fish and fish populations. Traversing high flows downstream of dams is an energetically challenging activity that could influence survival and spawning success following passage. Carryover effects, however, are an underappreciated consequence of dam passage that have been overlooked by researchers and natural resource managers. We conducted a large-scale management experiment to determine if the operation of dam attraction flows could be changed to reduce high sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka mortality following passage and increase spawning success. We tested two flow conditions: (i) a baseline condition-currently used by managers-that released high attraction flows directly adjacent to the entrance to a vertical-slot fishway and (ii) an alternative condition that released attraction flows 10m away from the fishway entrance to reduce the flows fish swim through while approaching the passage structure. We tagged 637 sockeye salmon with telemetry tags to monitor dam passage, post-passage survival to spawning grounds and spawning success under the two flow conditions. Validated fish counters at the exit of the fishway and on spawning grounds were used to generate population level estimates of survival to spawning grounds. Individuals exposed to baseline flow conditions spent two times longer recovering from dam passage and exhibited 10% higher mortality following passage than those exposed to alternative flows. Release of alternative flows for 10days assisted approximately 550 fish (or 3% of total spawners) in reaching spawning grounds. Once on spawning grounds, female spawning success was strongly influenced by individual spawning characteristics (longevity and date of arrival on spawning grounds) and not dam flow condition. Our findings highlight a cost-effective solution that decreases mortality following passage simply by altering the location of dam flow releases and not reductions in discharge.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Accelerometry, Delayed mortality, Egg retention, Fishway, Fitness, Oncorhynchus nerka, Telemetry
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/rra.3051
Journal River Research and Applications
Burnett, N.J., Hinch, S.G., Bett, N.N., Braun, D.C., Casselman, M.T., Cooke, S.J, … White, C.F.H. (2017). Reducing Carryover Effects on the Migration and Spawning Success of Sockeye Salmon through a Management Experiment of Dam Flows. River Research and Applications, 33(1), 3–15. doi:10.1002/rra.3051