Salmon (European & Pacific)
Atlantic salmon can grow up to 32kg
North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
One amazing journeyTypically, salmon are anadromous: they are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean, then return to freshwater to reproduce (there is a sub species of Atlantic salmon that stays in freshwater lakes). The journey made by those salmon that survive this quest to reproduce is one of nature's greatest triumphs.
The salmon must swim hundreds even thousands of miles, to get back to the stream where they hatched. Whilst many simply do not have enough fat stores to make the trip, others must battle through fishermen's nets, over power dams, up waterfalls and rapids, and struggle past eagles, otters and bears to reach their destination.
Salmon spend between 1 and 7 years out in the ocean, depending on the species. Pacific salmon usually die within a few days or weeks of spawning. Atlantic salmon can make the trip from freshwater to ocean and back a number of times.
Where are the salmon?Pacific salmon are native to Canada, Russia, and the United States and have been introduced into Japan and Atlantic salmon are native to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The largest salmon sanctuary in the world is in Kamchatka, Russia.
Food for thoughtSalmon is a popular food, and is classified as an oily fish, recommended for a healthy diet.
Fishing and the processing of salmon play a major role in many economies. Whilst overfishing and badly managed fisheries have contributed to the decline of many species of fish, including some salmon populations, the Alaska salmon fishery, which is responsible for around 90% of wild caught salmon in North America, has been MSC certified since 2000.
Why are salmon under threat?
- Cross contamination by farmed salmon. This has led to the spread of diseases to wild populations, especially sea lice.
News: Farmed salmon escape in to Scottish rivers
News: Salmon farming threatens Chile's Patagonian lakes
- Commercial overfishing, especially in the Faroes and Greenland.
- Climate change is now also having an impact on salmon populations. As cold-blooded fish, salmon struggle to survive when the temperature of streams and rivers rises above 20 degrees Celcius.
News: Salmon cooking in Scottish rivers
IUCN fact sheet: Salmon & Climate Change [pdf]
- Habitat loss and degradation of stream pools.
- Lack of force behind regulations and rules designed to help salmon populations recover.
What is WWF doing?
It lobbies the groups responsible for managing the health of the oceans such as the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO). Download report: Wild Atlantic Salmon on the Brink.
It also works to protect and restore the rivers, lakes and streams which form the natural habitat of species such as salmon.
WWF argues for more effective controls of farmed salmon to ensure minimal adverse effects associated with effluent discharges, disease transmission and spread of parasites. Download report: Protecting Wild Atlantic Salmon from Impacts of Salmon Aquaculture.
It has played a key role in the promotion of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC); and has promoted the concept of sustainable seafood to both fisheries, retailers and consumers.
How you can help
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