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sockeye salmon underwater photo by
underwater photograph of sockeye salmon
sockeye salmon spawning male picture
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behavior photo of pacific sockeye salmon schooling underwater split
Salmon, also called Red Salmon
Pacific Ocean, Bering Strait Alaska USA to California USA
River, British Columbia Canada
ocean as adults, rivers as young
33 inches (84cm), 15 lbs
populations known as Kokanee; approximately 2 of every 4000 hatched will
survive to spawn
Salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, is one of five species of endangered
Pacific salmon. It is an anadromous fish, meaning it spends most of
its life in marine waters but migrates into fresh water to spawn.
The sockeye begins life in a freshwater stream, hatching from one of
thousands of pea-sized eggs in a gravel nest or "redd".
It's a one inch "alevin", with yolc-sac still attached.
Next it beefs up for a year as a "fry", trying to avoid
being eaten, then travels downriver as a three or four inch "smolt"
to the ocean on a quest to begin its second life. Sleek and silver,
the adult circles the Pacific for two to four years, before
answering the call to return to its birthplace to spawn, completing
As it re-enters freshwater, the sockeye's
color and shape change, its body becoming bright red and its head
green. Males develop grossly humped backs and hooked jaws. Females
begin to swell with thousand of eggs. They battle rapids and dams,
elude fishing nets, and charge upriver with single-minded devotion
in a race in which to live as a species they must themselves make
the ultimate sacrifice.
Salmon numbers have been serious depleted
by among other things, overfishing, dams, lower water quality
resulting from logging and pollution, global warming, and of course
the side effects of urbanization- roads, parking lots, housing,
factories, etc. Some rivers which once supported healthy stocks are
now empty. Others runs are critically threatened. The sockeye is
officially classified as endangered. It is the most commercially
important of the five species, with the Bristol Bay fishery in
Alaska the most noteworthy.
The salmon is much more than just a fish.
For some, it has cultural importance, others spiritual, others
commercial. Few are not moved by the salmon's saga, a struggle
against seemingly impossible odds, a journey across open seas and up
raging rivers which ends in a bittersweet climax.
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