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Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 79, Issue 1–2, pp 49–60 | Cite as

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

  • R. Allen Curry
  • Chad A. Doherty
  • Timothy D. Jardine
  • Steven L. Currie
Special Issue Crossman

Abstract

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 trans-located 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 ≤7% probabilities of being in the diet. A bioenergetics model suggested ≤5% 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.

Keywords

Radio and acoustic tracking Stable isotopes Modeling diets 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank M. Gautreau, A. Halford, K. Roach, and C. Cronin for muskellunge collections and tracking and T. Goff and S. Ratelle, Fisheries and Oceans, Canada—Mactaquac Biodiversity Centre, for muskellunge and fish collections at the Mactaquac Dam. Reviews by R. Jones, J. Bagnall, C. Ayer, and two anonymous reviewers were most useful.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Allen Curry
    • 1
  • Chad A. Doherty
    • 1
  • Timothy D. Jardine
    • 1
  • Steven L. Currie
    • 2
  1. 1.Canadian Rivers Institute, New Brunswick Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Stable Isotopes in Nature Laboratory, Biology DepartmentUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, Region 3IslandviewCanada

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