Atlantic Salmon Research Prospectus
John Kocik, Ph.D., Supv., Research Fishery Biologist
The Atlantic Salmon Ecosystems Research Team comprises science staff in Orono, Maine and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The Team collects comprehensive assessment data on Atlantic salmon smolt and marine stages and supports freshwater assessment work and habitat conservation by state partners and other local entities. The Team provides quantitative analyses and conducts original applied research and assessment work to determine the effects of fisheries management and environmental factors on the survival and productivity of US origin salmon. Resources are routinely assessed through the Maine Atlantic Salmon Framework, US Atlantic Salmon Assessment Committee, and ICES North Atlantic Salmon Working Group. The NEFSC also supports fishery management activities through State Conservation Plans, Federal Recovery Plans, and internationally through the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.
Understanding marine survival and growth dynamics of Atlantic salmon is vital to modeling efforts to better understand the viability of populations and the best methods to recover these stocks. The Penobscot River currently supports >75% of the returning adult salmon to all US river systems and these fish are primarily the result of annual stocking of >500,000 hatchery smolts. The return rate of hatchery smolts has been declining for the past 25 years and mirrors population trends in wild populations of Maine and throughout North America. Given these numbers, smolt stocked populations currently provide the best opportunity to study marine population dynamics through the evaluation of return rates at traps and weirs and retrospective analysis of marine growth through scales. NEFSC efforts including migratory survival modeling, telemetry assessments, and estuarine ecosystem surveys furthers the knowledgebase and information sources for ecosystem management and marine population dynamics investigations. In addition, the NEFSC is committed to participate in, or support active field assessment and research program to enumerate smolts emigrating from several rivers in Maine. These assessment programs, conducted by partners, provide critical data to assess the health of these stocks for an entire watershed, as well as serving as a platform for tagging and telemetry projects to better understand the ecology of Atlantic salmon in marine ecosystems.
The United States has been an active participant in the international stock assessment and management process for Atlantic salmon. As the lead agency in this effort, NMFS provides data inputs and scientific expertise to promote the production of high quality stock assessments and the sound use of this information in the international fishery management arena. This job entails full participation and leadership within the ICES Working Group on North Atlantic Salmon and interacts with the Baltic Salmon and Trout Working Group. To accomplish objectives, NMFS scientists and managers routinely participate in and report on domestic and international meetings focused on stock assessment of Atlantic salmon populations. These assessments extend geographically to understand and sample Greenland and other distant water fisheries where US Origin fish may be captured. To directly collect data on fisheries, the US sends samplers to Greenland annually and coordinates of international efforts. In addition, NMFS coordinates genetic continent-of-origin analysis of representative samples of this fishery with USGS geneticists to determine the proportion of North American origin fish in this population. The Team also conducts and develops novel methods of stock assessment modeling in support of management authorities to develop and refine estimates of pre fishery abundance for the West Greenland and other fisheries potentially exploiting US stocks.
NEFSC and Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) staff involved in Atlantic salmon research, assessment, conservation, and management activities utilized the mission statement of the agency and our mandates to develop unified goals for this program in the form of both vision and mission statements. Our vision statement is to "recover and maintain naturally reproducing Atlantic salmon populations and their ecosystems to provide a surplus for fisheries consistent with existing laws." Our mission is to "identify, quantify, and minimize threats to Atlantic salmon; conserve and enhance habitat; and evaluate our progress toward recovery by assessing the viability of these populations at critical life history stages." We will accomplish our mission through a coordinated program that fully integrates science and management within NMFS and effectively partners with Federal, State, and Private organizations.