Scientists: Warm water blob may impact salmon forecasts
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A mass of exceptionally warm water in the northeast Pacific Ocean could shake up recent predictions of higher salmon runs in Alaska this year, according to fisheries researchers.
Brian Beckman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle said the issue is biologists are not sure exactly how the warm water known as the Pacific Blob affects different salmon along the West Coast, KTOO-FM reported (http://bit.ly/1T1lPXW).
"The thing that we need to think about is that warm water in Alaska is really different than warm water in California," said Beckman, a research fishery biologist. "Warm water in California can be so warm that it is actually injuring the fish, whereas warm water in Alaska just means that it is abnormally different and maybe the ecosystem is different. But it's still a comfortable place for fish to be."
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently predicted chinook salmon numbers would range between 125,000 and 219,000 kings this year along the Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska, a higher king salmon run than in previous years.
Beckman said the blob's effect could be different for each type of salmon.
"It's really hard to talk about salmon runs all across the coast in any one single focus because they all kind of do different things," Beckman said.
Last year's pink salmon harvest in southeast Alaska fell short of predictions. Joe Orsi, fisheries research biologist at NOAA's Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute at Auke Bay, said it is not clear whether the blob had an impact on their model for salmon runs in 2015.
While there remains a level of uncertainty, researchers have created a database intended to show how the Pacific Blob is affecting various salmon runs along the West Coast. It can serve as a tool to help Alaska fisheries managers better predict salmon runs.