Dr. Scott Hinch (UBC) has earned the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership. The award recognizes Hinch’s groundbreaking findings on the causes of salmon mortality, research that was conducted as part of OTN’s Pacific salmon tracking projects on Canada’s west coast.
Fewer than 10 per cent of salmon survive beyond British Columbia’s freshwater rivers to completely mature in the open ocean.
“We knew there was mortality in the fresh water environment, but we weren’t really aware of how intense it was in such a narrow window of their life history,” said Hinch.
Hinch and his students used novel miniature acoustic tags—which work in conjunction with OTN’s monitoring arrays throughout British Columbia’s rivers and coastal waters—paired with physiological sampling to deduce several causes behind the alarming mortality rates.
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Among other findings, the seven-year study pointed to bull trout as a prominent source of mortality. “These trout were gorging themselves. If you were to pump their stomachs, you would have up to 85 juvenile salmon in their stomach at one time,” said Hinch. His team at UBC documented unusual movement patterns—salmon adopting river migration strategies to avoid the voracious predators.
Hinch puts on an annual Pacific Salmon Workshop that hosts government and private stakeholders, mostly other researchers, as well as rights holders and community members, to present and discuss the latest research findings. His work, in collaboration with First Nations and B.C. Hydro, assessed the impacts of hydroelectric dams on young migrating salmon—work that resulted in a 15 per cent increase in salmon passing through the dam.
Scott Hinch is an OTN Canada Principal Investigator and a founding member of OTN’s Scientific Advisory Committee, which meets yearly to review and plan OTN’s fish and aquatic animal tracking activities across Canada.