Pacific Salmon

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Pacific Salmon

Appearance

Pacific salmon are large fish, in various colours from silver and grey with dark spots or fins. The largest Pacific salmon, chinook, can weigh up to 36 kilograms. There are six species of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus genus): chinook, chum, coho, pink, sockeye, and steelhead.

Range & Habitat

Pacific salmon are found in the ocean and in rivers and streams from Alaska to California. In B.C., Pacific Salmon live in the Coast and Mountains ecoprovince.

Diet & Behaviour

In the ocean they feed on zooplankton, herring and other small fish; in rivers they feed on insects and small fish. Salmon can move from fresh water to salt water and back again. To do this they have to change their body to adapt to the new kind of water.

Lifecycle & Threats

Salmon spend their adult life in the ocean and migrate up streams and rivers to spawn (lay eggs). Most salmon die once they have spawned, and steelhead are the only salmon able to spawn more than once. In the streams, eggs are buried in gravel nests called “redds”.  After the eggs hatch, the baby salmon (which start as alevins, and grow into fry, parrs and then smolts) remain in freshwater streams or lakes up to two years prior to swimming to the ocean. Once at sea, they migrate varying distances, staying in the ocean for up to several years. Pacific salmon live from two years (pink salmon) to seven years (chinook). Threats to salmon include loss of habitat (spawning areas) and over-fishing. Efforts are being made to protect and restore habitat and to use improved harvesting methods.

Status

COSEWIC: three salmon populations are listed as endangered
CDC: Yellow

More Information

www.vanaqua.org

Photo: Hobson

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