Salmon are different from most fish that you might know of. Most of the world’s fish either
live in fresh or salt water, which is not the case for the salmon species of fish. During the
course of their life they will live in both salt and fresh water habitats.
The salmon’s life cycle has changed little since its early relatives 100 million years ago,
only evolving with the glaciers and the earth’s environmental change. Biologically they are
primitive fish compared to other fish. They have primitive air bladders and no spines on
their fins. Their life cycle is also very primitive, salmon are anadromous which means they
hatch in fresh water but spend most of their life in the ocean and return only to fresh water
streams to spawn. Then they come back to the same stream in which they were born to
spawn like their parents before them did. While other fishes can spawn many times, the
salmon can spawn only once then it dies shortly after. They don’t eat during their
migrations. Instead they put all their energy and focus into spawning, so their condition
When salmon hatch they stay in the gravel for 180 days depending on the certain
conditions like the water’s oxygen content and temperature. Many of the other eggs die
before they even hatch due to disease and not being fertilized. While in the gravel the
young salmon use their yolk sac as their source of food, but when they run out they eat
insects. Salmon stay in fresh water for 1-3 years until they go to the oceans.
Salmon journeys can be hundreds, even thousands of miles long. The longest known trip
was made by a Chinook salmon that went 2,400 miles Inland just to spawn! Salmon tend
to come back to the same stream in which they were born because they know it’s a safe
place for their young to grown up.
A female may lay 800 eggs for every pound she weights. Before a female salmon
exhausts her supply of eggs, she will have made several nests that can be 10 ft long and
4 ft wide.
There are 7 different kinds of salmon that live in the Pacific, Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink,
Sockeye that live in the Pacific Northwest which is our main focus. There are 2 species
that live off the Asian continent, Masu and Amago. Each seeks different habitats; each
has it own special features; and each spawns during different times of the year.
In the history of Native Americans, salmon have been fished for thousands of years. They
had a peaceful existance with nature, honoring the salmon and using every part. They
used bones for tools and the meat and organs for food. Then the white settlers came and
they began fishing for salmon not utilizing all of the it's body for food like the natives did.
Later salteries and then canneries were developed. Salteries are places where people
salt fish to preserve them. Canneries are places where fish are canned to sell in stores.
They still only used the meat part of the salmon. The canneries poured the excess parts
of the salmon into streams causing pollution. This caused the salmon to die faster.
Hatcheries were built to save salmon. But salmon born in hatcheries could not find food,
jump, or protect themselves as well as wild salmon and the taste and color does not
compare to that of salmon in the wild.
Dams are the largest threat to salmon, which kill 50% of young salmon and 20% of adult
salmon. Dams and reservoirs make salmon journeys extremely hazardous and block the
movement of salmon which is the main reason why stocks have declined. They have to
navigate through spinning turbine blades and high water pressure that kill and injure
salmon. Salmon can also get lost in reservoirs which can make a 2-week journey into a 3-
month journey. In Washington’s Snake and Columbia rivers, salmon must pass through 8
dams which kill 80-95% of salmon! Also 70% of these two major rivers which is about 482
miles have been converted into reservoirs! Most scientists agree and I think you will too,
that removing dams is the only option to save salmon stocks. So by controlling salmon
habitat degradation, improving water flow speeds, lowering water temperature, and
removing dams the salmon are sure to have a brighter future ahead.
Nothing threatens the salmon’s future more then human development. Stream channels,
road construction, timber harvesting, and mining all degrade salmon spawning and rearing
habitats. Salmon stocks have drastically declined because of these. Logging areas
around streams where salmon live reduces the shade and nutrients that salmon eggs
greatly need starving the developing eggs. Also it increases the amount of silt in the water
which chokes the developing eggs and reduces young salmons’ survival during their
migration to the ocean. So run salmon, run, run for your life.