Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 8, pp 1039–1055 | Cite as

Behavior and thermal environment of Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha in the North Pacific Ocean, elucidated from pop-up satellite archival tags

  • Michael B. CourtneyEmail author
  • Mark D. Evans
  • John F. Strøm
  • Audun H. Rikardsen
  • Andrew C. Seitz


Chinook salmon are widely distributed in offshore waters of the North Pacific Ocean, and of great economical and subsistence importance; however, little is known about their oceanic ecology. To address this, we tagged 43 Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (57–100 cm) with pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) in the eastern (October– December) and central Bering Sea (August) to provide insights into the oceanic movements, behavior, and thermal environment of this species. The tags retrieved data for up to 260 days and end locations of tagged Chinook salmon spanned from the central Bering Sea (n = 6), eastern Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (n = 20), and the Gulf of Alaska (n = 6). While at liberty, Chinook salmon occupied depths ranging from 0 to 538 m and experienced a thermal environment ranging from −0.6 to 13.5 °C. Overall, mean depths of individual fish ranged from 4.5 to 127.9 m, while median depths ranged from 1.3 to 99.5 m. Although sample sizes were not even among months of the year, Chinook salmon occupied the shallowest and warmest water in May–September and the deepest and coolest water in December–March. Diel depth-specific diving behaviors of Chinook salmon were found in some tag records, but these behaviors appeared to be variable among individuals and plastic in nature within individuals. Results from this study provide insights into movement, diving behavior and the thermal environment of individual Chinook salmon which may have future application in understanding its ecology and developing strategies to further reduce incidental catch of this species.


Behavior Depth Chinook salmon Ecology PSATs 



This project was supported by the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative and the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Additional in-kind support was provided by National Marine Fisheries Service-Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NETS Seattle, and the Fisheries Research Agency of Japan. We thank Dave Magone, Debbie Brown, Parker Bradley, Nicholas Smith, Kristin Neuneker, and Nate Cathcart for their help during winter tagging operations. We thank Shigehiko Urawa and Shunpei Sato of the Hokkaido National Fisheries Research Institute, and the captain and crew of the R/V Hokko maru for their help and generosity during summer tagging fieldwork. Koji Tamura of NETS Seattle enabled us to transport a 750 lb. metal box across the Pacific Ocean, not once, but twice. Finally, we thank Robert Walker and Kate Myers, both retired, of the former University of Washington High-Seas Salmon Research Program and Jim Murphy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for their valuable insights into all phases of this research project.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 21 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael B. Courtney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mark D. Evans
    • 2
  • John F. Strøm
    • 3
  • Audun H. Rikardsen
    • 3
  • Andrew C. Seitz
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksJuneauUSA
  2. 2.College of Fisheries and Ocean SciencesUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  3. 3.Department of Arctic and Marine BiologyThe Arctic University of Norway – UiTTromsøNorway

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