Data from a long-term capture-recapture program were used to assess the status and dynamics of populations of two long-lived, federally endangered catostomids in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. Lost River suckers (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris) have been captured and tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags during their spawning migrations in each year since 1995. In addition, beginning in 2005, individuals that had been previously PIT-tagged were re-encountered on remote underwater antennas deployed throughout sucker spawning areas. Captures and remote encounters during spring 2011 were used to describe the spawning migrations in that year and also were incorporated into capture-recapture analyses of population dynamics.
Despite relatively high survival in most years, both species have experienced substantial declines in the abundance of spawning fish because losses from mortality have not been balanced by recruitment of new individuals. Although capture-recapture data indicate substantial recruitment of new individuals into the adult spawning populations for SNS and river spawning LRS in some years, size data do not corroborate these estimates. In fact, fork length data indicate that all populations are largely comprised of fish that were present in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a result, the status of the endangered sucker populations in Upper Klamath Lake remains worrisome, and the situation is most dire for shortnose suckers. Future investigations should explore the connections between sucker recruitment and survival and various environmental factors, such as water quality and disease. Our monitoring program provides a robust platform for estimating vital population parameters, evaluating the status of the populations, and assessing the effectiveness of conservation and recovery efforts.Keyword Tags: