Feeding hungry adolescents leads to healthy development, no matter what the species. A new study shows that sockeye are no exception. When the Kasatochi volcano erupted in Alaska in 2008, the ash fertilized the ocean creating an abundance of diatoms (special phytoplankton) for the fish to eat. The adolescent salmon in the area feasted on the abundant food and developed strong bodies that could better sustain migration, leading to a record number of fish returning to spawn. Tim Parsons, a research scientist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C., recently made the connection between these two events.
The link between the plankton bloom and the huge sockeye run of 2010 is consistent with Parsons’s own research. In one 1970s experiment, the sockeye run increased seven fold after he fertilized a lake on Vancouver Island. In other studies, he found salmon populations in the Gulf of Alaska depend on the density of phytoplankton…[read full article]