New research suggests that allowing more Pacific salmon to spawn in coastal streams will not only benefit the natural environment, including grizzly bears, but could also lead to more salmon in the ocean and thus larger salmon harvests in the long terma win-win for ecosystems and humans. In a new article and accompanying synopsis published April 10 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology, Taal Levi and co-authors from UC Santa Cruz and Canada investigate how increasing "escapement"the number of salmon that escape fishing nets to enter streams and spawncan improve the natural environment.
"Salmon are an essential resource that propagates through not only marine but also creek and terrestrial food webs," said lead author Levi, an environmental studies Ph.D. candidate at UCSC, specializing in conservation biology and wildlife ecology.
Salmon fisheries in the northwest Pacific are generally well managed, Levi said. Managers determine how much salmon to allocate to spawning and how much to harvest. Fish are counted as they enter the coastal streams. However, there is concern that humans are harvesting too many salmon and leaving too little for the ecosystem. To assess this, the team focused on the relationship between grizzly bears and salmon. Taal and his colleagues first used data to find a relationship between how much salmon were available to eighteen grizzly bear populations in British Columbia, and what percentage of their diet was made up of salmon.
"We asked, is it enough for the ecosystem? What would happen if you increase escapementthe number of fish being released? We found that in most cases, bears, fishers, and ecosystems would mutually benefit," Levi said.
The relationship between salmon and bears is basic, Levi said. "Bears are salmon-consuming machines. Give them more salmon and they will consume moreand importantly, they will occur at higher densities. So, letting more salmon spawn and be availa
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