There are five species of Pacific Salmon belonging to the west coast of North America. These species include: Chinook, Coho, Chum, Sockeye, and Pink. One thing that all species share in common is that they anadromous, meaning that they are born in freshwater, migrate out to salt water, than return to freshwater to spawn. The chart below can be found in any B.C. freshwater fishing regulations synopsis and acts as a guideline for anglers in fish identification.
What different Salmon species don't share in common is behavior, size, and appearance. Depending on the species, salmon will spend a couple of hours to two years rearing in freshwater after they hatch. Once they begin their adventure at sea to become sexually mature, they will spend, again depending on the species, anywhere from one to five years there. Following this dangerous adventure they will return to the river from which they hatched and give back the gift of life by spawning.
Terms and Conditions
A Salmon will only return to a river and successfully spawn if the following requirements are met. One, they are among the triumphant two percent that manage somehow, against all odds, to avoid the countless merciless attacks on their survival. And two, there is an adequately functioning fresh water system for them to return to. If these terms and conditions are not met than Pacific Salmon will cease to exist.
Salmon are in fact a keystone species. This means that they are a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend on. If they were removed the ecosystem would change drastically. Species that depend on Pacific Salmon include but are not limited to: whales, seals, sea lions, bears, eagles, wolves, and yes humans.
Now, you might say, "nope, na ah, not me, I don't eat fish." That may be true but you do breath air, we all do. Now, you might retort, "what does air have to do with Salmon?" Well, lets think about this for a second. We know that salmon are a keystone species. We know that they live the majority of their lives in the oceans and then return to freshwater to spawn. What most people don't know, perhaps because it isn't as obvious, is that once they spawn, Salmon will die of natural causes and literally 100 percent of the nutrients their bodies provide will be transferred back into the ecosystem to which they belong. This process provides nourishment on such a large scale its hard to even comprehend. Forests bordering these Salmon bearing rivers and streams will see a very large portion of these nutrients which in turn will stimulate good health and growth. What we may also not know is that the ocean is the largest living thing on the planet earth. Since a Salmon's role in the ocean is as a keystone species, the magnitude of their significance is hard to imagine. If we take Salmon out of the equation we are likely to disrupt the balance beyond the state of repair.
Now, those are the facts. We can't change them. And now would be the perfect opportunity for you to say, "I still don't understand how Salmon effect me breathing air." Air as we know it, is a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, and minute amounts of other gases. When we breath air, we exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. Our body absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. We need oxygen in order to live. However, oxygen is in limited supply and guess who supplies it? If you answered Salmon, unfortunately you are wrong, although that would certainly simplify things for this arguments sake. Plants is the correct answer. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. Plants such as, but not limited to, trees, ferns, and microscopic algae. Recognizing plants is easy while walking through the forest, they are literally everywhere. Recognizing plants in the ocean, however, may be a little more difficult. This is due to the fact that the majority of oceanic plants exist as microscopic algae. As 75 percent of our earths surface is covered by oceans, the vast majority of oxygen on the planet can be attributed to oceans.
In closing, we have touched on the Pacific Salmon species characteristics, the fragile dynamics of their existence, and the many issues that are and will continue to rise should Pacific Salmon meet extinction. If we are to disrupt the ecosystems balance by removing them from the equation, we will be sure to suffer catastrophic results.
Some information gathered for this page must be credited to:
Air. (n.d) In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com
David Suzuki Foundation. (2009). Conserving Our Oceans. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/Oceans/
Groot, C. and L. Margolis. 1991. Pacific Salmon Life Histories. Vancouver, UBC Press.
Salmon. (n.d) In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.wikipedia.org