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Salmon is the common name for several species of fish of the Salmonidae family. Several other fishes in the family are called trout. Salmon live in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...

Salmon are anadromous: they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that the fish return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn and modern research shows that usually at least 90% of the fish spawning in a stream were born there. In Alaska, the crossing over to other streams allows salmon to populate new streams, such as those that emerge as a glacier retreats. How they navigate is still a mystery, though their keen sense of smell may be involved. In all species of Pacific salmon, the mature individuals die within a few weeks of spawning.

Coastal dwellers have long respected the salmon. Most peoples of the Northern Pacific shores had a ceremony to honor the first return of the year. For many centuries, people caught the salmon as they swam upriver. A famous spearfishing site on the Columbia River at Celilo Falls was inundated after great dams were built on the river. Now, salmon are caught in bays and near shore. Long drift net fisheries have been banned on the high seas except off the coast of Ireland.

Table of contents
1 Food
2 Species
3 External Links
4 Further Reading


Salmon is very popular as food, and also very healthy due to the high presence of Omega-3 fatty acids. According to reports by "Science" magazine, however, farmed salmon may contain high levels of dioxins. PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) levels may also be up to 8 times higher in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon, and Omega-3 content may also be lower than wild caught species. However, according to the British FSA (Food Standards Agency) the benefits of eating even farmed salmon still outweigh the risks. Conversely, salmon is generally one of the least tainted by methyl mercury of all fish.

Smoked salmon is a popular preparation method, which can either be hot or cold smoked. "Lox" is cold smoked salmon.


The various species of salmon have many names.

Atlantic Ocean species

Atlantic Salmon has also been introduced elsewhere for sport fishing and fish-farming. In some areas, feral populations are now causing concern over their possible effects on other local native fish species.

Pacific Ocean species

Some young fish spend as long as four years in fresh water lakes before migrating to the sea. In rivers without lakes, many of the young move to the ocean quite soon after hatching. These salmon mature after one to four years in the ocean.

Some Sockeye Salmon live and reproduce in lakes and are called "kokanee". They are much smaller than the ones that go to the ocean (rarely over 14 inches long).

This species is netted for commercial canning, especially in Bristol Bay, Alaska, site of the largest harvest of sockeye salmon in the world, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The species has been preferred for canning due to the rich orange-red colour of the flesh. More than half of the sockeye salmon catch nowadays is sold frozen.

Chinook salmon are also called 'King Salmon' because many consider them to be the best tasting. Those from the Copper River in Alaska are particularly known for the colour, flavor, firm texture, and high Omega-3 oil content.

The young hatch by mid-winter and migrate to the ocean by spring. They move into the deep ocean in the fall where they stay for two years. When mature, the pink salmons return to spawn close to the coast, some in intertidal areas.

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, fish traps were used to supply fish for commercial canning and salting. The industry expanded steadily until 1920. During the 1940s and 1950s, Pink Salmon populations declined drastically. Fish traps were prohibited in Alaska in 1959. Now most pink salmon are taken with purse seines and drift or set gillnets. Some increase in population is evident.

Most Chum Salmon spawn in small streams and intertidal zones, especially among stalks of eelgrass. The young feed on small insects in streams and estuaries, then move out to saltwater in the fall. They mature after three, four, five, or six years. Some Chum travel more than 3,200 km (2,000 miles) up the Yukon River.

This species is a fighting fish and provides fine sport in fresh and salt water from July to September, especially with light tackle.

External Links

Further Reading