By: Henry Snaza
Salmon are one of the most iconic fish species in the world.
Salmon have essentially taken over the globe. They have an extremely large distribution: from Mexico to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean and across the Pacific along the coast of Japan up to Russia.
Salmon hold a special place in my heart. This is the species I chose to study while working on my degree at Oregon State University. I have also spent a large portion of my life fishing for these creatures, so I have had the opportunity to see them all over the West coast of the United States, and even in Alaska. Here is my favorite photo of me and a Coho salmon from my last fishing trip to Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Why are they so cool? Because they are anadromous creatures, which means that salmon are born in freshwater and then migrate to the oceans to live out their juvenile and adult lives. They then return to freshwater to spawn.
Salmon are also semelparous, which means that they reproduce only once and die after reproduction.
I have spent a lot of my life visiting Oregon and Washington for school, family and recreation. According to The Foundation for Water and Energy Education, the northwest receives up to 80% of its electricity from hydropower facilities. The northwest also happens to be the in the heart of the salmon’s home range.
Hydropower facilities = large dams. These dams cause major problems for migrating salmon. The problems compound twofold: adults cannot move upstream to reach fertile spawning grounds and juveniles must deal with the large turbines, causing many of them to die before reaching the ocean.
One of the success stories I like to talk about is the Elwha river located on the Olympic peninsula. We completely blocked salmon passage into the upper Elwha spawning grounds by implementing two dams on the river. We recently removed these dams and found that even though these salmon were cut off from their spawning grounds for decades, made it back.
This video gives a great overview on the Elwha river history and recent dam removal, and what it means to the river, the wildlife and the people.
- You can read more from the World Wildlife foundation at http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/pacific-salmon
- If you are interested in reading up on hydropower in the northwest, take a look at this interesting website- http://fwee.org/education/the-nature-of-water-power/overview-of-hydropower-in-the-northwest/
- Pacific Salmon Distribution Map source- https://thefisheriesblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/pacific-salmon-distribution.jpg)