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Fisheries productivity in the northeastern Pacific Ocean over the past 2,200 years


Historical catch records suggest that climatic variability has had basin-wide effects on the northern Pacific and its fish populations, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies1,2,3,4,5,6,7. However, these records are too short to define the nature and frequency of patterns. We reconstructed 2,200-year records of sockeye salmon abundance from sediment cores obtained from salmon nursery lakes on Kodiak island, Alaska. Large shifts in abundance, which far exceed the decadal-scale variability recorded during the past 300 years1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, occurred over the past two millennia. A marked, multi-centennial decline in Alaskan sockeye salmon was apparent from 100?BC to AD 800, but salmon were consistently more abundant from AD?1200 to 1900. Over the past two millennia, the abundances of Pacific sardine and Northern anchovy off the California coast, and of Alaskan salmon, show several synchronous patterns of variability. But sardines and anchovies vary out of phase with Alaskan salmon over low frequency, which differs from the pattern detected in historical records5,6. The coherent patterns observed across large regions demonstrate the strong role of climatic forcing in regulating northeastern Pacific fish stocks.

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Figure 1: a, Map of the northeastern Pacific coast from Alaska to California, highlighting Kodiak island (this study), Saanich inlet27 and the Santa Barbara basin18,19,25.
Figure 2: Palaeolimnological evidence of dramatic changes in sockeye salmon abundances from Karluk lake over the past 2,200 years.
Figure 3: A regional comparison of sedimentary δ15N profiles and the archaeological phases10 from Kodiak island, Alaska.
Figure 4: Reconstructions of fish abundances for the northeastern Pacific Ocean over the past 2,200 years.


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We thank D. Barto, T. Chatto, R. Hander, S. Honnold, S. Schrof, N. Sagalkin and J. Sweetman for assistance in the field, and T. Brown, N. Haubenstock, A. Hirons, T. Howe, A. Krumhardt and M. Luoma for laboratory assistance. We are also grateful to J. Glew for drafting our map. B. Cumming, J. Dower, T. Johnston, D. Mann, and members of PEARL provided comments on the manuscript. This work was funded in the USA by the US Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (GLOBEC) programme jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Alaska Sea Grant College programme and the NOAA-Auke Bay Lab Ocean Carrying Capacity programme. In Canada, this research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) programme and the Northern Studies Training Program (NSTP).

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Correspondence to Bruce P. Finney.

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Finney, B., Gregory-Eaves, I., Douglas, M. et al. Fisheries productivity in the northeastern Pacific Ocean over the past 2,200 years. Nature 416, 729–733 (2002).

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