Bristol Bay Smolt Program
BBSRI has been enumerating sockeye salmon smolts in Bristol Bay since 2008. The goal of the smolt program is to provide annual age-specific estimates of the number of juvenile salmon going to sea in three Bay rivers (Kvichak, Ugashik and Egegik). These data can be used for pre-season forecasts of adult salmon returns, developing spawning (escapement) goal targets, and characterizing changes over time in freshwater and marine productivity.
We collaborate with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), sharing field sites, logistics, and resources. The BBSRI smolt program built upon ADF&G’s ~3 decades of sonar-based smolt research developed in the early 1970s and discontinued in the early 2000s. From 2006-08, BBSRI and Scientific Fisheries Systems developed a sonar system made up arrays of up to 8 upward-looking sonar pods connected to shore by power and ethernet cables. Sonar pods contain a low-power, custom sounder and a single-beam transducer. We deploy two redundant arrays on each river to make two independent estimates of the hourly, daily, and annual smolt abundance.
Annual Reports from the smolt program, by year of migration: