Establishment of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Pacific basins of southern South America and its potential ecosystem implications

TitleEstablishment of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in Pacific basins of southern South America and its potential ecosystem implications
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
JournalRevista chilena de historia natural
Date PublishedJan-01-2007

Salmon and trout species are not native to the southern hemisphere, however rainbow and brown trout have been established a century in southern South America. Yet most attempts to introduce anadromous salmon failed until the onset of aquaculture by 1980Escapes of Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (Chinook salmon) from aquaculture after 1990 have apparently produced increasingly important reproductive returns "naturalized", to upper basins in Chile and Argentina south of 39o S. In this paper we show data on the historic and spatial occurrence of chinook salmon in four Pacific basins during the past decade. Our objective is to establish the progress of the settlement forecasting some ecosystem disruptions in order to project and manage potential impacts. In Chile, sampling took place from 1995 to 2005 including rivers Petrohué, Poicas, and Río Negro-Hornopiren, and Lake Puyehue, in the X Region. In Argentina sampled rivers were Futaleufú, Carrenleufú and Pico. In Chile and Argentina reproductive Chinooks ranged in size between 73 and 130 cm total length, being the smallest sizes those of Lake Puyehue where the population is apparently landlocked. In Río Petrohué, the size of the runs varied from year to year reaching in the peak season of 1996 and 2004 up to 500 kg of fish along 100 m of riverbank. Temporal distribution of juvenile Chinooks suggested mainly a typical ocean type as they are gone to sea within the first year of age. As seen in Petrohue, reproductive populations could import significant quantities of marine derived nutrients as they do in their original habitats thus disturbing natural cycles and balances. Chinook establishment in these pristine watersheds in southern South America poses new challenges for decision makers and fishermen since they may develop a fishery in the Pacific Ocean with consequences to other fishery resources. Additionally they also become a resource for sport fishing. Therefore there is the need of developing management tools and approaches to control the populations avoiding irreversible ecosystem disruptions and social conflicts.

Short TitleRev. chil. hist. nat.