San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science
Predation on Fishes in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta: Current Knowledge and Future Directions
- Author(s): Grossman, Gary D.
- et al.
The Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) is a heterogeneous, highly modified aquatic system. I reviewed relevant predator–prey theory, and described extant data on predator–prey relationships of Delta fishes. I ranked predator consumption rates as occasional, moderate, and common, based on frequency-of-occurrence data, and evaluated the frequency, and hypothesized the effects of predation on native and invasive species. I identified 32 different predator categories and 41 different prey categories. Most predators were occasional consumers of individual prey species, although I also observed moderate and common consumption of some prey types. My analysis yielded few generalizations regarding predator–prey interactions for Delta fishes; most predators consumed a variety of both native and invasive fishes. The only evidence for predator specialization on either native or invasive fishes occurred in Prickly Sculpin which, when it consumed fishes, ate mostly native species. Both Striped and Largemouth Bass exhibited wide dietary breadth, preying upon 32 and 28 categories of fish prey respectively. Sacramento Pikeminnow, a native predator, also displayed wide dietary breadth of piscine prey, with 14 different prey categories consumed. Data for reptilian, avian, and mammalian predators were sparse; however, these predators may be significant fish predators in altered habitats or when hatchery salmonids are released. The database for predators and their fish prey was not strong, and I recommend long-term dietary studies combined with prey availability and behavioral and experimental studies to establish predator preferences and anti-predator behaviors, rather than just consumption. The behavioral effects of contaminants on prey species also warrant further examination. Although it has been suggested that a reduction in the Striped Bass population be implemented to reduce predation mortality of Chinook Salmon, the large number of salmon predators in the Delta make it unlikely that this effort will significantly affect salmon mortality.