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Conservation physiology in practice: how physiological knowledge has improved our ability to sustainably manage Pacific salmon during up-river migration

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 13:22 authored by Cooke, SJ, Hinch, SG, Donaldson, MR, Clark, TD, Eliason, EJ, Crossin, GT, Raby, GD, Jeffries, KM, Lapointe, M, Miller, K, Patterson, DA, Farrell, AP
Despite growing interest in conservation physiology, practical examples of how physiology has helped to understand or to solve conservation problems remain scarce. Over the past decade, an interdisciplinary research team has used a conservation physiology approach to address topical conservation concerns for Pacific salmon. Here, we review how novel applications of tools such as physiological telemetry, functional genomics and laboratory experiments on cardiorespiratory physiology have shed light on the effect of fisheries capture and release, disease and individual condition, and stock-specific consequences of warming river temperatures, respectively, and discuss how these findings have or have not benefited Pacific salmon management. Overall, physiological tools have provided remarkable insights into the effects of fisheries capture and have helped to enhance techniques for facilitating recovery from fisheries capture. Stock-specific cardiorespiratory thresholds for thermal tolerances have been identified for sockeye salmon and can be used by managers to better predict migration success, representing a rare example that links a physiological scope to fitness in the wild population. Functional genomics approaches have identified physiological signatures predictive of individual migration mortality. Although fisheries managers are primarily concerned with population-level processes, understanding the causes of en route mortality provides a mechanistic explanation and can be used to refine management models. We discuss the challenges that we have overcome, as well as those that we continue to face, in making conservation physiology relevant to managers of Pacific salmon.


Publication title

Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions. Biological Sciences










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Royal Soc London

Place of publication

6 Carlton House Terrace, London, England, Sw1Y 5Ag

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Coastal or estuarine biodiversity

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