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photos of  sockeye salmon

To see more sockeye salmon pictures, click here

kf1813. Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), spawning male
sockeye salmon underwater photo by Brandon Cole
lt20. Sockeye Salmon, juveniles schooling. aquarium shot.
underwater photograph of sockeye salmon juveniles
mb121. Sockeye Salmon, male struggles up riverbed to spawning grounds
sockeye salmon spawning male picture available for download
mb51. Sockeye Salmon, split view (over-under) of a school moving up river to spawning grounds
behavior photo of pacific sockeye salmon schooling underwater split level

more photos


   vitals                                                              bio
Sockeye Salmon, also called Red Salmon
scientific name Oncorhynchus nerka
range northeastern Pacific Ocean, Bering Strait Alaska USA to California USA
Adams River, British Columbia Canada
habitat open ocean as adults, rivers as young
size to 33 inches (84cm), 15 lbs
diet fish, invertebrates
trivia landlocked populations known as Kokanee; approximately 2 of every 4000 hatched will survive to spawn
Sockeye 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 the life-cycle.
     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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