Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife
Pacific salmon is naturally occurring in the North Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, the southern Arctic Ocean and surrounding fresh water.

Did you know?

Many salmon are anadromous — this means they live in the saltwater of the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn.

Scientific name: Oncorhynchus (5 Pacific salmon species in North America)
Average weight: 1 kg–18 kg
Average length: 50 cm–90 cm
Average lifespan: 2–5 years
A pair of Pacific salmon swimming in British Columbia

Canadian Geographic articles

Canada’s Pacific salmon

By Roderick L. Haig-Brown
March 1952

An extensive look at the natural and cultural history of salmon from the settlement of Canada to 1952, writer Roderick L. Haig-Brown examines everything from spawning habits of the five species of Pacific salmon to the techniques of fishing boats off the coast of British Columbia.

The sockeye, chum, spring, pink and the coho salmon all spend their lives in and along the coasts of British Columbia. All the salmon have a dual lifecycle, spending their first year or so in freshwater lakes and streams, and the large portion of their adulthood in the ocean. In their fourth or fifth year, the salmon swim up the rivers to the place of their birth so they can spawn. Each type of salmon has a slightly varied lifecycle, with the sockeye having the longest and most complex. Except for the sockeye, which eats a small type of shrimp, each species feeds on smaller fish when they finally reach the Pacific Ocean.

The fishing trade surrounding the salmon spawn each year is incredibly lucrative for the fishermen on the West Coast — each year they net millions of dollars worth of the fish. Lasting from late summer to the mid-fall, the fishermen net huge salmon as they return to their rivers to spawn. This, even in the mid-20th century, was recognized as a possible threat to the overall population of the Pacific salmon, and the Minister of Fisheries was given the ability to veto a catch at any time if the numbers of spawning salmon were proven to be too low.

Biologists and politicians began to recognize the importance of maintaining the salmon runs to keep the populations stable, and they were either protected or better maintained.

Coho in the culverts

By Terry Glavin; photos by Graham Osborne
May/June 1997

This article looks at the resurgence of a Pacific salmon population brought about through the efforts of community volunteers. Thousands of urban environmentalists are reviving and rehabilitating streams in Vancouver to ensure that the coho salmon can return to its spawning grounds.

The author talks writes about the families, their neighbours, biologists, and other good Samaritans who have pitched in to help conserve salmon streams and other waterways, and to build and restore salmon habitats. As a result of their dedication, a number of salmon populations have made remarkable recoveries. It is biologist Matt Foy’s opinion that it is such people as these who could mean the difference between life and death for the West Coast salmon population.

The article also has interesting information about how the salmon help themselves in order to survive, such as the tasks they undertake to modify an entire riverbed.

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