Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Washington
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

DeFilippo LB, Buehrens TW, Scheuerell M, Kendall NW, Schindler DE. 2021. Improving short-term recruitment forecasts for natural origin coho salmon using a spatiotemporal integrated population model. Fisheries Research 242: 106014


Fishery managers often rely on forecasts of future population abundance to set allowable harvest quotas or exploitation rates. While there has been substantial research devoted to identifying environmental factors that can predict recruitment for individual populations, such correlations often degrade over time, thereby limiting their utility for management. Conversely, examining multiple populations at once to detect shared, spatially structured patterns can offer insights into their recruitment dynamics that are advantageous for forecasting. Here, we develop a population dynamics model for coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) stocks in Washington State that leverages spatial and temporal autocorrelation in marine survival to improve one-year-ahead forecasts of adult returns. Executed in a Bayesian hierarchical integrated modelling framework, our spatiotemporal approach incorporates multiple data types and shares information among stocks to estimate key biological parameters that are informative for forecasting. Retrospective evaluation of one-year-ahead forecast skill indicated that the spatiotemporal integrated population model outperformed existing forecasts of Washington state coho salmon returns by ~25-38% on average. Our results add to a growing body of work demonstrating the utility of spatiotemporal and integrated approaches for modelling population dynamics, and the framework developed here has broad applications to the assessment and management of coho salmon in Washington State and throughout their range.