Maximum neutral buoyancy depth of juvenile chinook salmon: Implications for survival during hydroturbine passage

  • Pflugrath B
  • Brown R
  • Carlson T
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This study investigated the maximum depth at which juvenile Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha can acclimate by attaining neutral buoyancy. The depth of neutral buoyancy is dependent upon the volume of gas within the swim bladder, which greatly influences the occurrence of injuries to fish passing through hydroturbines. We used two methods to obtain maximum swim bladder volumes that were transformed into depth estimations-the increased excess mass test and the swim bladder rupture test. In the increased excess mass test, weights were surgically added to the exterior of the fish, requiring the fish to increase swim bladder volume in order to remain neutrally buoyant. The swim bladder rupture test entailed removing and artificially increasing swim bladder volume through decompression. From these tests, we estimate the maximum acclimation depth for juvenile Chinook salmon is a median of 6.7 m (range=4.6-11.6 m). These findings have important implications to survival estimates, studies using tags, hydropower operations, and survival of juvenile salmon that pass through large Kaplan turbines typical of those found within the Columbia and Snake River hydropower system.

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  • Brett D. Pflugrath

  • Richard S. Brown

  • Thomas J. Carlson

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