Using movements and diet analyses to assess effects of introduced muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Saint John River, New Brunswick
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The muskellunge was introduced in the Saint John River system from stockings in a headwater lake in the 1970s. They have migrated down the system as far as the river's first dam, Mactaquac Hydroelectric Facility, at Fredericton and appear to have established several reproducing populations along the river. This exotic invader represents a potential threat to the severely depleted Atlantic salmon stocks in the river. We radio-tracked muskellunge over a 2- year period in the middle reaches. Home ranges extended to ~100 km in both riverine and lacustrine areas, including 78% of individuals translocated upstream of the dam making their way back through the dam successfully. Downstream of the dam, home ranges were <25 km. No spawning areas were detected. An isotope analyses of diet indicated that the large sub-adults and adults had established the greatest proportion of their biomass in a more 15N depleted environment typical of areas farther upstream. Isotope mixing models could not accurately determine the proportion of Atlantic salmon smolts that may have been consumed by muskellunge, but anadromous salmon had 㷥 probabilities of being in the diet. A bioenergetics model suggested 㵥 of the annual food intake by muskellunge occurs during the smolt out-migration period. For the Saint John River, the impacts of growing numbers of muskellunge are multi-faceted creating a complex management challenge. Muskellunge appear to minimally increase predation risk for Atlantic salmon smolts while their increasing numbers are creating a growing recreational fishery and potential threat to the native fish community and ecosystem.
Environmental Biology of Fishes
Zoology not elsewhere classified
Fisheries Sciences not elsewhere classified
Ecology not elsewhere classified