Ultimate Guide to Salmon: All You Need to Know

Salmon guide

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In the depths of rivers, lakes, and oceans, a remarkable creature reigns—the majestic salmon. With their inherent beauty and fascinating life cycle, the salmon has captured the imagination of humans for centuries.

From their epic migrations spanning vast distances and diverse species to their vital ecological importance and the challenges they face, join us as we uncover the secrets of these iconic fish.

Salmon Overview

Salmon overview

The term salmon is used to describe several species of fish from the Salmonidae family, which are mainly anadromous fish. This refers to the salmon’s habit of migrating back to the rivers in which they were born to spawn. This is often an arduous journey that involves moving from a marine environment to freshwater.

During the bulk of their lives, salmon can be found in either the North Atlantic or North Pacific Oceans. There are five species of Pacific salmon but only one type of salmon is found in the Atlantic. While it would be impossible to know exactly how many salmon are in the world, they’re certainly in abundance. In one study, over a ten-year period, it was estimated that there were more than 721 million salmon in our oceans every year. 

Salmon are medium-sized fish that can grow between 33 inches and 59 inches (84 cm and 150 cm), depending on the species. They prefer a coastal habitat when in the ocean and will favor graveled areas in the rivers when they return to spawn. They’re also frequently found in freshwater streams as well as estuaries, where they’ll feed on a diet of crustaceans, insects, and other fish.

Salmon Life Cycle

Salmon life cycle

Where fish are concerned, the salmon has a rather interesting lifecycle. It moves through seven life stages, and each fish will travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to complete its goal of reproducing, often resulting in the death of the fish. The entire lifecycle of the salmon can last for up to seven years!

Egg

As with all fish species, salmon start their life as an egg that is laid in a freshwater habitat. Females will often bury their eggs under the gravel at the bottom of the river when the water is fast moving as this affords them protection from predators. The eggs take up to 50 days before they’ll be ready to hatch.

Alevin

Once the salmon eggs hatch, an alevin will emerge. This tiny salmon measures no more than an inch in length and needs to remain among the gravel if it is to survive. The baby salmon will stay in this form for around a month and, while it is no longer inside the egg, the yolk remains attached to its body to ensure the alevin gets enough nutrients.

Fry

After around one month, the alevin will have absorbed all of the nutrients within the yolk sac and will transform into a fry. These young fish are now able to come out of their gravel shelter and start feeding on plankton. However, they’re incredibly vulnerable during this stage of life, and many fry do not make it because of predation.

Parr

During the parr stage of its development, the salmon begins to develop finger markings along the length of its body. While the fish will now have grown to several inches in length, it remains vulnerable to predators. These young salmon need to be careful and protect themselves and will spend between one and three years in the river before they grow large enough to head out to the ocean.

Smolt

The smolt stage sees the salmon go through a process called smoltification which enables the fish to make the transition between freshwater and saltwater. It will move through estuaries and will develop a silver coating that acts as a means of camouflage.

Adult

As adults, salmon spend their time in the ocean where they develop further markings depending on their species. An individual could spend between two and six years out in the ocean feeding on fish before getting the urge to return and spawn. Nature gives the adult salmon its cues, and it’ll then make the massive migration back to the rivers, which could see it traveling more than 2,000 miles (3,218 km)!

Spawning

Salmon spawning

Salmon really put themselves through the wringer when it comes to reproducing. In fact, all of the Pacific species and sometimes, the Atlantic salmon, sacrifice their own life in the name of producing offspring. As if that huge migration wasn’t enough!

As the salmon underwent changes back in the smolt stage, it will undergo further changes as it makes its way back to freshwater. It’ll develop a hooked nose for males which is used for fighting and its coloration will once again alter.

Scientists are not completely sure how a salmon knows when it’s time to migrate back to the rivers, but it’s thought that there are chemical clues and scents that help them to detect this. They’ll make their way back towards fresh water, and during this time, their bodies undergo several changes in preparation for spawning. Once the salmon reach freshwater, they stop eating.

Interestingly, not all salmon species will make their spawning migration at the same time. For the pink, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon, migration happens in the fall. However, for the chinook salmon, there are salmon runs in the fall, summer, and spring.

When they arrive at their natal streams, the females will lie on their sides in the sediment and use their tails to carve our nests, known as redds. During this time, the males will be using their kypes (hooked noses) to fight for the right to breed and, when they win, they’ll woo the females, who will lay their eggs ready to be fertilized.

At this point, the adult spawners don’t have long left, and in almost all cases, they’ll die shortly after. During this time, salmon corpses litter the waterway, but they’re usually taken as food by a variety of animals or they’ll decompose, providing nutrients for the river ecosystem.

Importance of Salmon

Importance of salmon

Did you know that as many as 137 animal species rely on salmon for the nutrients they provide? While salmon are abundant, they do face threats, and this is why there are so many efforts in place to protect them. Not only are they a keystone species and an indicator that tells us a lot about the condition of the environment, but they’re also the most important commercially fished fish species on the planet. Let’s take a closer look at what makes salmon so important.

Ecological Benefits

All types of salmon are imperative to the very structure of the ecosystems in which they live because they are a keystone species. One of the main reasons for this is that they have the ability to live in both freshwater and marine environments where they play an essential role in maintaining stability.

For example, when they’re out in the ocean, they’re at the center of the food chain providing nutrition for a wealth of other species, such as larger fish, seals, and dolphins. At the same time, they prey on smaller fish like herrings, ensuring that there is a good balance between species, retaining biodiversity.

Moreover, when the salmon are in their riparian environment, they act as a food source for more than just aquatic species. Animals like grizzly bears and birds also prey on them. Without such an abundance of salmon, these species would struggle to find enough food.

Additionally, salmon provide nutrients for the local ecosystem even after they die. When the rivers and streams are littered with salmon corpses after spawning, their decomposition provides nutrients that help to sustain old-growth forests. Not only this, but the wildlife within these forests will also benefit from these nutrients, including many bird species.  

On top of this, salmon are considered to be an indicator species. These fish are able to tell us a lot about the condition of the river ecosystem. Where there aren’t great salmon populations in a riparian environment, this is an indicator that the ecosystem is not healthy. However, when we see greater numbers, we can assume that the river habitat is healthy and sustained.

Economic Benefits

Salmon is up there with the most important commercial fish species in the world. Fishing for this species brings in astonishing amounts of money which, in some cases, can be the difference between a thriving community and one that struggles. In Scotland, it’s been reported that farmed salmon contributes as much as £640 million to the country’s economy each year. Not only this, but commercial fishing in Scotland creates as many as 2500 jobs annually.

And it isn’t just in Scotland that salmon provides important economic benefits. The Alaska Salmon Fishery provides up to 90% of all wild salmon caught in North America and the Pacific Ocean is the primary source of global salmon fishing. The Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery turned over more than $1.5 billion in 2012 alone!

In the United Kingdom, salmon is the country’s biggest food export, and in the last 40 years, the amount it is producing has increased from just 14 tonnes a year to more than 200,000 tonnes. This has earned the UK salmon industry more than £1 billion each year!

Norway’s prominence in the salmon industry extends to its position as the leading exporter of farmed salmon globally. With a robust salmon aquaculture sector, Norway not only provides substantial employment opportunities but also strengthens local communities and ensures a stable workforce. Job creation spans various stages, from hatcheries to processing plants, resulting in enhanced livelihoods and sustainable development.

Recreational Fishing

There is no denying that recreational fishing needs to be done responsibly and, when it is, it can be of great economic value to the community. For example, in 2013, it was reported that, for every individual salmon caught at a recreational fishery, around $281 was earned for the state. 

On top of this, having these recreational fisheries creates jobs within the community. Couple this with sales and other factors and each individual fish may have a value of more than $1100 per year for the local area.

While the economic value is nowhere near comparable with that of commercial fishing, it certainly has an impact. In 2013, it was reported that the value of recreational fishing for salmon was more than $105 million in California alone.

Pacific Salmon (Genus Oncorhynchus)

There are six species of Pacific salmon, with the chinook salmon being the largest of these. There are healthy populations of salmon in the Pacific Ocean, especially around the coasts of Alaska.

Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

The chinook is the largest of all of the Pacific salmon species, and it can grow up to 5 feet (152 cm) and weigh as much as 100 lbs (45 kg).

The chinook is the largest of all of the Pacific salmon species, and it can grow up to 5 feet (152 cm) and weigh as much as 100 lbs (45 kg). These fish have a white underbelly with bluish-green coloration on the back and a silvery hue along the sides. They also have distinct black markings along the back, fins, and tail.

Chinook salmon are found in the North Pacific from North America to Japan and across Siberia. However, populations have been introduced to other areas, including New Zealand. While there are good numbers of chinook salmon, they are the least abundant. Moreover, the populations are declining due to overfishing and damming. In some areas, such as coastal California and Lower Columbia, the salmon runs have a threatened status.

These fish are sometimes called the king or blackmouth salmon and typically live for between three and six years. During their adult years, the chinook will seasonally migrate back to its natal river to spawn after which it will die within the following 25 days.

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Coho salmon are highly prized in the commercial industry, but they actually only make up around 10% of all commercially caught salmon.

Coho salmon are highly prized in the commercial industry, but they actually only make up around 10% of all commercially caught salmon. What’s more, they’re the second least abundant species behind the chinook, although they’re much smaller. Where chinooks can weigh up to 100 lbs (45 kg), the coho salmon doesn’t usually exceed 10 lbs (4.5 kg).

They grow to around 28 inches (71 cm) in length as adults and have a blue to green coloration on the back with a white underbelly which is common of most salmon species.

The coho salmon prefers to spend its time by the shore and will migrate from its freshwater habitat after around two years. During this time, it will head out to the ocean but doesn’t travel as far as other species. In fact, usually, the coho salmon will stay within 100 miles (161 km) of its natal river, returning to spawn and turning a dark red color in the process.

While the natural range of the coho salmon is across the North Pacific from California and Alaska in North America through to Russia and Hokkaido, Japan, populations have been introduced to all of the Great Lakes. Because of overfishing, some populations of coho salmon have seriously declined, such as the ones in the Strait of Georgia.

Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

The sockeye salmon are unique in that, even as adults, the main part of their diet is plankton as opposed to smaller fish, like many other salmon species.

The sockeye salmon are unique in that, even as adults, the main part of their diet is plankton as opposed to smaller fish, like many other salmon species. If you’re a fan of fish on your plate, then it’s more than likely you’ll eat sockeye, as this is the most commercially important species.

They’re sometimes called the redfish owing to the fact that, during spawning, the body takes on a deep red hue. At this time, the head may also turn a bright green color. However, when they’re in the ocean, sockeye salmon tend to have a more greenish blue coloration. These aren’t a huge species in terms of size and generally weigh between 5 and 7 lbs (2 and 3 kg) as adults.

The sockeye salmon may spend up to three years in freshwater, but some may make the move to the ocean as early as three months of age. You’ll find them as far south as the Columbia River, and their range spreads over the entire Pacific Ocean to Hokkaido, Japan. While some populations have been listed as endangered, the species as whole is listed as of Least Concern. What’s more, there are measures in place to protect them from overfishing.

Interestingly, there are some landlocked populations of sockeye salmon known as kokanee. Moreover, the individuals in these populations tend to be much smaller than their anadromous counterparts. Regardless of their location, this species usually lives for between two and six years.

Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha)

The pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) holds the title of being the smallest.

Where the chinook salmon is the largest Pacific species, the pink salmon holds the title of being the smallest. Generally speaking, they don’t weigh more than 5 lbs (2 kg) as an adult. They’re sometimes called the humpy salmon because, during spawning season, the males will develop a large hump on their backs.

Pink salmon are among the shortest-lived salmon species, with most adults not living for more than two years. However, despite this, they’re still the most abundant type of Pacific salmon.

You’ll find them as far north as Canada and all the way down to California in the south. Their populations continue around Pacific coastlines in Honshu, Japan, and Korea to the east. However, populations vary in their security depending on the area. For example, they are not considered under any threat in places like Alaska, but in California, numbers have declined.

In terms of appearance, the pink salmon only has pink coloration when it’s in the rivers. When out in the ocean, these fish have a blue to green hue with black markings and silver sides.

Compared to other salmon species, the pink salmon doesn’t spend as long in freshwater and will migrate out to coastal saltwater from as little as two years after birth. Even when it comes to spawning, they’re unlikely to migrate very far upstream and tend to stay around the mouth of the river.

Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

The chum salmon is the most widely distributed species of Pacific salmon and is found all over the North Pacific Ocean.

The chum salmon is the most widely distributed species of Pacific salmon and is found all over the North Pacific Ocean from North America across to Asia, including around the coasts of Korea and Japan. These large fish (the second largest Pacific species) prefer to hang out in coastal areas.

Despite staying close to the coast, the chum salmon has the longest migration of all salmon species and can travel up to 2,000 miles (3,218 km) when it’s time to spawn. This happens between November and January and, once the eggs hatch and the fish develop into fry, they will start their migration out to the ocean between the months of March and July.

However, they don’t tend to go too far upstream, and most chum salmon populations will spawn near the mouth of their natal river. During spawning, the males will develop bars of varying colors along their bodies while the females take a single, black stripe that runs horizontally along her length. When in the ocean, the chum salmon has a metallic green to blue hue, which is similar to most other species.

While the chum salmon is not endangered as a whole species, there are two populations that have been listed as such. These are the Lower Columbia river population and the Hood Canal summer run.

Masu Salmon (Oncorhynchus masou)

The masu salmon can be found in the North Pacific and is most abundant in the northeastern and eastern parts of Asia in countries like Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.

The masu salmon can be found in the North Pacific and is most abundant in the northeastern and eastern parts of Asia in countries like Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. It can also be found around the far eastern parts of Russia.

The name masu comes from the Japanese language and means cherry trout which likely has a lot to do with the markings of the fish turning bright red when the fish reaches sexual maturity. These are a smaller salmon species that don’t typically grow to more than 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) as adults and generally grow no more than 28 inches (71 cm) in length.

During their initial stages of life, masu salmon will spend their time in freshwater rivers, and it isn’t until they reach the ages of 1 to 3 years that they’ll make the journey out to the ocean. They’ll spend up to two and a half years at sea feeding on crustaceans before returning to their natal river to spawn.

Just like most other Pacific salmon species, the fish will die once they have spawned, but a few smaller males may survive to spawn the following year. They’ll start their migration between May and July ready to spawn before September.

Atlantic Salmon (Genus Salmo)

While there isn’t the abundance of species in the Atlantic as there is in the Pacific, the Atlantic salmon can lay claim to being the largest of all salmon species in the world.

Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

One of the key differences between the Atlantic salmon and the Pacific salmon is that the former doesn’t necessarily die after spawning.

One of the key differences between the Atlantic salmon and the Pacific salmon is that the former doesn’t necessarily die after spawning. This means that in 5-10% of cases, these fish can spawn and then return to the ocean to spawn again the following year. Because of this extended lifespan, Atlantic salmon can grow very large. In fact, they are the largest of all salmon species with adults getting as big as 30 inches (76 cm), on average.

The largest ever recorded Atlantic salmon was named Hope, who weighed a whopping 109 lbs (49 kg) and measured more than 62 inches (157 cm) in length.

Atlantic salmon, as their name suggests, are found in the Atlantic Ocean. They are mainly found in the North Atlantic as far up as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Portugal. As with most salmon species, these fish have a silvery blue to green coloration when they live in the ocean. However, when they’re young, the freshwater Atlantic salmon has a blue and red spotted pattern.

Atlantic salmon are commercially fished by humans on farms all over the Atlantic Ocean. In New England, weirs were built to help with their harvest along the rivers, and this was a practice that was performed for thousands of years with great significance in Colonial America.

Numbers of Atlantic salmon around the world are good and the species is listed as being of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. However, this status has not been updated for some time and more recent records show that there could be a decline in European populations as well as rising concerns for the species on a global level.

Threats Facing Salmon

Threats facing salmon

Salmon species are not listed as threatened or endangered, but individual populations have had rapid declines in number, leading them to be marked as threatened. There are many reasons that salmon populations may be in decline in certain areas and this is being reflected in the number of salmon that is commercially caught each year.

Habitat Destruction

Just like any animal, salmon need the right environment to thrive. As I discussed earlier in this guide, these fish can be used as an indicator for the health of the ecosystem. However, ecosystems and habitats for salmon are getting smaller.

One of the leading causes is the building of dams and other barriers which stop salmon from being able to get back to their natal rivers for spawning. If they can’t breed, it naturally threatens the very survival of the species. What’s more, dams inhibit the natural movement of gravel up and down stream, which is essential to salmon when spawning as this is where they will lay their eggs.

And it isn’t just dams but human infrastructure causing a decline in the water quality, which can seriously affect the salmon’s ability to successfully spawn. The Coastal Gaslink Pipeline in British Columbia is a prime example of this. In fact, human structures like this have caused salmon in the area to lose up to 85% of their spawning habitat. 

Habitat is also being lost as a result of drainage and this not only cuts the salmon’s habitat but also decreases the quality of the water due to the removal of substrate. Other human practices such as agriculture, deforestation, and mining can all have a negative impact on the habitat of both Atlantic and Pacific salmon.

Climate Change

Climate change is something we need to seriously address as it is impacting the potential survival of a wealth of species, including salmon.

A primary problem with climate change is that it is affecting the normal precipitation levels in any given area, which in turn leads to an impact on the flow of water within streams and rivers. For example, in summer, less rain and increased evaporation mean the water flow decreases.

The water temperatures are also rising, and with more evaporation, rivers are drying up. When water temperatures rise, this can lead to a decrease in natural food sources for salmon.

There have been reports that the number of salmon unable to spawn because of a lack of river habitat is rising, and one shocking video demonstrated this perfectly, showing more than 65,000 dead salmon in a dried-up Canadian river.

These issues are becoming so concerning that in England, as many as 37 of the 42 rivers known for salmon spawning are now considered to be at risk. Even more concerning is the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere which is being transferred into the water and causing acidification. As many as 40% of the world’s fish species live in freshwater and this acidification is threatening their very survival; salmon included. This is because, during studies, it was noted that salmon living in carbon dioxide infested water were slower growing and found it more difficult to detect the chemical clues needed during their migration. 

Invasive Species

Every creature on this planet has its own perfect environment where it will thrive and be a proactive member of the ecosystem. However, when species are introduced to new areas, this can mess with the balance and several invasive species are threatening salmon in many ways. Surprisingly, even various species of salmon are posing a risk to one another.

Believe it or not, the Atlantic salmon is under threat from the Pacific salmon. For example, in Scotland, where commercial fishing for Atlantic salmon is big business, Pacific pink salmon are now being found in the rivers. These fish simply don’t belong here. Not only do these areas not provide the perfect habitat for them, but their presence is a threat to the native Atlantic salmon who are now having to fight for food and breeding space. 

And it’s not just a fight between the various salmon species, other invasive species pose a threat. In some areas of North America, it has been reported that there could be as many as 486 non-native species of plants and fish in any given area, although the study from which this information came was performed in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

The northern pike has been introduced to many North American rivers where it preys on young salmon, removing their chances before they’ve even had the opportunity to head out to the ocean. In California, the presence of the European green crab could spell disaster for juvenile salmon as they become prey to this invasive crustacean.

Plants are also an issue, and some are taking over the rivers where our salmon breed. For example, the European bird cherry is becoming an issue in North America. These plants are slowly taking over willows which are home to the insects that young salmon feed on. Reed canarygrass chokes the rivers in which salmon hunt, removing much of their prey and reducing their available food sources.

Overfishing

We know that salmon is one of the most widely commercially fished species, and it provides a food source for humans as well as many jobs in the fishing industry. However, as with anything, we need to make sure that commercial fishing is done responsibly otherwise it could wipe out salmon faster than we can harvest it.

It’s imperative that we’re monitoring how many fish are being caught since it’s been reported that overfishing in the Fraser River has resulted in far fewer salmon spawning. Gillnets are often used to catch salmon during their migration back to their natal rivers. The problem with this is that the nets are size and age-selective meaning that the size of the spawners that pass through is drastically reduced. 

Pollution

Pollution in many forms is a problem in most of the world’s waterways and oceans. In the Fraser River, for example, a long stretch is lined with industrial buildings, all of which are contributing to the pollution of the water. Something like an oil spill could pollute their habitat for many years, and even without a disaster like this, the river is constantly being pumped with runoff from agriculture and manufacturing. 

For many years, scientists were left baffled as to why so many Pacific salmon were dying seemingly for no reason, particularly after storms. While there was no evidence to suggest that these salmon hadn’t simply died from spawning, it seemed unlikely. So, what was affecting these fish in the Pacific Northwest? As it turns out, there was a run off from the roads that contained a chemical known as 6PPD Quinone which is found in the rubber used to make tires. This compound has proven fatal to coho salmon.

Disease & Parasites

Salmon, like any other animal, are prone to certain parasites and diseases, and when these get out of control, it can seriously threaten the local populations. One of the biggest issues are sea lice which latch onto the skin of the fish and feed on its blood, mucus, and skin. They’re a particular problem with caged fish and are rife in the Pacific Ocean, although Atlantic salmon are also affected. If these caged populations manage to infect wild ones, which is common, the young salmon don’t stand a chance and most will be killed by the infestation. 

Piscine orthoreovirus is a disease that commonly affects Pacific and Atlantic salmon but it was actually only discovered in 2010. One of the main effects of this disease is inflammation of the heart and skeletal muscles.

For Atlantic salmon, there are more than 80 known diseases, but there are a few that are of the highest concern. These include a bacterial disease known as furunculosis, a skin disease called ulcerative dermal necrosis, and a flatworm parasite known as gyrodactylus.

One of the biggest issues is that fish farms use open pen nets, which makes it very difficult to contain pathogens, allowing them to spread to wild populations. What’s even more concerning is that the fish kept in these pens are not endemic to the area, which is a problem all of its own. Even if the fish themselves don’t escape, untreated discharge is quite easily released into the wild waters.

Aquaculture

Salmon farms are a significant problem because captive fish are able to escape and breed with the wild population. At first thought, this may not seem like too much of an issue; more salmon breeding means more salmon, right? But this isn’t the case as the captive salmon have largely been genetically modified which means that the natural genetic diversity of the wild populations could be wiped out.

In addition to this, it has been reported that when captive fish breed with wild salmon, the entire life cycle is messed up. It would appear that the spawn of these parents matures at a much quicker rate and this interferes with a natural cycle that has helped wild salmon thrive for millenia.

What’s more, the risk of the spread of disease is incredibly high when captive salmon are breeding with their wild counterparts. In captivity, salmon are bred very closely, and there is a high risk of parasites and disease which are then transmitted to the wild salmon populations.

Moreover, when captive salmon get out into the wild, this increases population size which results in individuals having to fight for resources. Worryingly, many fish farms are not accurately reporting their populations which was evident after an investigation into Cooke Aquaculture revealed that, not only did the company underreport the number of fish it was keeping but also misled authorities in many other ways. Without an accurate representation of the aquaculture industry, we’re going to have a much harder time policing it and protecting wild salmon.

And if all of that wasn’t enough to raise your level of concern, why not consider the pollution that aquaculture is producing? According to reports, the amount of pollution from fish farms rose by 10% in the space of just one year! This meant that 4000 additional tonnes of nitrogen, phosphorus, and zinc were being deposited into the water.

Conservation Efforts to Protect Salmon

Conservation efforts to protect salmon

Thankfully, while there are several threats to salmon, conservationists are more than aware of the problem and are acting to ensure the survival and protection of the seven salmon species.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, salmon numbers in the rivers Dee and Wye have drastically reduced in recent years. In response to this, the UK government has implemented new bye-laws that dictate any salmon caught in these rivers must be returned as soon as possible and unharmed.

In Scotland, trees are now being planted along the River Dee in an effort to protect the area from the effects of climate change. So far, as many as a quarter of a million trees have been planted and the aim is to plant four times this amount within the coming decade.

Moreover, Scottish anglers are now being urged to report any conditions in and around rivers that could pose a risk to Atlantic salmon. Fisheries all over the country are coming together to encourage anglers to make reports, particularly where the invasive Pacific pink salmon is concerned. 

United States

In North America, the US is also getting on board to protect salmon, and there has been a significant focus on pollution. One of the primary ways of managing the threats to salmon as a result of chemical runoff is to reduce or eliminate the use of certain chemicals. In Washington state, California, and Oregon, the use of four chemical compounds has now been banned in a bid to reduce runoff and protect salmon. 

Damming is a major problem for salmon as it limits or completely removes access to their natal rivers for spawning. However, North America has many aging or useless dams, and some of these are set to be removed, freeing up access for salmon to their spawning grounds. 

What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency is looking at stopping the workings of proposed new mines in Alaska, particularly one whose work poses a significant risk to salmon. The Pebble Mine, as it is so called, would include a gas pipeline, a power plant, and the construction of access roads which could encroach on the habitat of the salmon, not to mention the pollution the development would cause. 

In Seattle, efforts are being made to remove blockers that were previously put in place for logging so that salmon can make it back to their natal grounds. In this area, the fish hadn’t been seen for many years, but as water levels began to rise, salmon and other migratory fish reappeared. It only makes sense to relocate roads and remove other obstacles to allow these fish to thrive. 

Moreover, under a plan created by Biden, more pathways are being reopened by NOAA fisheries to allow salmon a passage to their breeding grounds. Not only this, but the program aims to retain salmon habitats by looking at how future development will affect the areas.

International Efforts

The bid to save salmon is global, and as such, the Pacific Salmon Treaty, formed by the governments of both the United States and Canada has been agreed. Within this treaty, the two nations have committed to properly research, manage and improve salmon fisheries.

One of the main benefits of the two countries working together is that it removes any previous competition. Before, Canada and the USA competed where commercial salmon fishing was concerned and this led to overfishing. Not only will the treaty reduce this, but it will also benefit communities as ethical jobs will be created.

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