Salmon Ocean Ecology Team

Traveling along the San Joaquin River before deploying salmon smolt Predation Event Recorders (PERs)The Salmon Ocean Ecology Team conducts research on California salmonids across their life stages and habitats in the southern end of their natural geographic range. Our work is primarily field based and is carried out in diverse habitats including large inland rivers, bays and estuaries, and the coastal ocean. Our research is driven by the need to ensure sustainable harvest of stocks managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Management Act, and the need to protect populations listed by the Endangered Species Act. Our objectives are:

  • To better understand juvenile salmonid migration mortality and the role of river flow, water diversions, habitat alteration, and predators on migration success and failure.
  • To monitor salmonid growth, distribution, and physiological condition during the critical early period following ocean entry.
  • To inform policy makers on both fisheries and water management issues in California to speed salmon recovery in the state.

The Central Valley salmon and steelhead outmigration survival studies use newly available and rapidly evolving technology for miniature acoustic tags and fish tracking telemetry. Tagged smolts pass through an extensive array of receivers placed throughout the rivers and canals traversing the Delta and San Francisco Bay, allowing detailed rapid assessment of migratory behavior. The results of survival studies are used to design and implement focused investigations in the areas of high mortality. Our ocean surveys use surface trawls to collect juvenile and older salmonids along with other fish and invertebrates that co-occur with them. We also collect spatially matched habitat data to better describe the ocean environment navigated by young salmon in the coastal ocean off central and northern California.

Our research benefits from collaboration with several universities, state and federal agencies. We also work in close cooperation with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, the SWFSC’s Advanced Survey Technology Team, and other Fisheries Ecology Division teams including Early Life History, Landscape Ecology, and Genetic Analysis.

Team members

Research activities



Ocean salmon survey - Cruise reports
The team surveys ocean salmon to quantify the spatial distribution and physiological condition of salmonid stocks in the central portion of the California Current Ecosystem.

Last modified: 5/11/2015