Reference points for coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) harvest rates and escapement goals based on freshwater production

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We describe a simple scheme for the management of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) population aggregates that uses reference points derived from an empirical analysis of freshwater production data. We fit a rectilinear “hockey stick” model to 14 historical data sets of female spawner abundance and resulting smolt production and found that at low spawner abundance, the average productivity was about 85 smolts per female spawner. Variation in productivity among streams may be related to the quality of the stream habitat. We show how freshwater productivity can be combined with forecasts of marine survival to provide a limit reference point harvest rate. Our method will permit harvest rates to track changes in ocean productivity. We also used the historical data to estimate that, on average, a density of 19 female spawners x km-1 is required to fully seed freshwater habitats with juveniles. However, there was considerable variation among the streams that might limit the utility of this measure as a reference point. Uncertainty in the forecasts of marine survival and other parameters needs to be incorporated into our scheme before it can be considered a precautionary approach.