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Pacific Salmon

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The Pacific ocean is filled with fish. Big fish, little fish. Fish that eat other fish. Fish that get eaten by humans. None of these fish are more important to British Columbia, Canada1 than the Pacific salmon.

Apart from their economic value, salmon are of enormous cultural significance to the indigenous people of the Pacific coast. This has led to conflict between indigenous groups, representatives of the commercial and sport fisheries, and logging interests.

Salmon are born in streams up to 700 miles from the sea. After growing and developing in the streams, the salmon make their way to the ocean. After some time in the ocean2, the salmon return, lay eggs, and die.

There are five major species of Pacific salmon.

Sockeye Salmon

  • Colour: Blue-tinged silver
  • Lifespan: Four to five years
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Also known as: 'Bluebacks' (Columbia river) or 'Reds' (Alaska)

Sockeye spawn in streams that have lakes nearby. Young sockeye do not survive unless they spend between one and three years in a lake. Spawning males have large humped backs and sharply hooked jaws.

Pink Salmon

  • Colour: Silver and heavily spotted on the back
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Also known as: 'Humpbacks' or 'Humpies'

Pinks only spend six months in fresh water. When going to spawn, male salmon develop large humped backs. They are rather scary looking.

Chum Salmon

  • Colour: Silver; light speckles on back and faint grid-like bars
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Also known as: 'Keta' or 'Dog Salmon'

When spawning, males develop a sharply hooked jaw and their dog-like teeth are totally exposed. Females get barred colouration along their bodies.

Coho Salmon

  • Colour: Bright silver
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Weight: 15 pounds
  • Also known as: 'Blueback' or 'Silvers'

Young coho remain in the place they were born for a full year.

Chinook Salmon

  • Colour: Blue-green back, lightly spotted
  • Lifespan: Between 5 and 7 years
  • Weight: 120 pounds
  • Also known as: 'Spring' (by commercial fishermen), 'Tyee' (when over 30 pounds), and 'King' (by American sport and commercial fishermen)

Chinook are the largest, and longest living species of pacific salmon. When spawning, chinook bodies do not change shape. Their colour changes from blue-green-silver to a dark grey or almost black

1British Columbia, a province of Canada, joined the Confederation in 1860.2The amount of time varies with each species.

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