In Situ Avoidance Response Of Adult Atlantic Salmon To Waste From The Wood Pulp Industry

An accidental release of non-toxic waste from decommissioned wood pulp industry in the River Numedalslågen, Southern Norway, occurred in the upper part of the accessible stretches for anadromous fish during a study of migration behaviour of radio tagged Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar, n=32, body length 51–99 cm). The fish had completed the migration phase and initiated the resident phase characterised by little movement until spawning. When the wooden fibres and pulp were released, 16 of 32 (50%) salmon showed an immediate avoidance response. Six (19%) salmon moved upstream and 10 (31%) salmon moved downstream. Of the salmon moving downstream, eight (25%) moved all the way to sea (average 14.8 km). Four re-entered the River Numedalslågen, two entered a neighbouring river and two were not recorded later. Fish moving downstream but without moving to the sea, moved on average 5.3 km during the episode, whereas those moving upstream moved on average 6.7 km. All fish recorded after the episode (n=30) survived until the spawning season. The study demonstrates that fish in nature may show an evident avoidance response, even to non-toxic contaminants. For Atlantic salmon, the size of the spawning population may be reduced by fish leaving the river (13% left the river and never came back). Moreover, the dispersal of salmon to other rivers may increase, and the distribution of the spawning population within the contaminated river may shift.

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