Native American cultures, especially the tribes of the Canadian Northwest and Columbia River, revere this fish as it continues to nourish humans and wildlife ...
|Atlantic Salmon with 5 Pacific Ocean ones|
c/o Pieter Folkens artwork
Who would have thought salmon could be so interesting - apart from good dinners! The Atlantic salmon I'm used to in Britain (one commercial species) or the Pacific salmon (eight species found in the huge Pacific Ocean), which I now eat here on Vancouver Island ... that difference is obvious - yet the genera are distinct ... interestingly Atlantic salmon are more closely related to certain species of trout.
Their life cycles are similar ... spending one to four years in the ocean before returning to spawn in the stream where they were born. The young will stay in freshwater streams for up to three years.
|Quill Creek in Kluane National Park|
They are well named from the Latin verb salire: to leap - for their swimming strength and endurance ... slithering up fish ladders, scrabbling through beaver dams, swimming upstream to spawn ...
|Life Cycle of Pacific Salmon|
... which they've reached using their superb sense of smell - they sense the stream where they were born, ensuring their return to spawn.
|The larger Grizzly Bear|
But ... Atlantic salmon are iteroparous, and may not die after spawning, though it is likely as the energies needed to reach their spawning grounds sap their strength ... some will survive. Pacific salmon will die once they've spawned ... this term is semelparous.
jumping over beaver
Another two terms ... anadromous fish, such as the salmon, striped bass, and sea lamprey: migrate from the sea up rivers ... or catadromous fish like eels: go from fresh water to the oceans ... seean earlier post: slippery eels.
|Two glaciers in Kluane National Park|
The one that got away is the Kokanee: a unique fish ... it has become, over millennia, a landlocked species of the sockeye salmon - an ocean-running fish that has been trapped high in the Yukon mountains ... in the Kluane National Park and reserve ... blocked off from its ocean route by shifting glaciers and plate tectonics ... the native peoples believe their sacred fish will one day return to the ocean, which seems very likely ...
Art work by Tony Hunt at Alert Bay,
BC 1942 (seen in Victoria Art Gallery)
These Pacific Northwest salmon are revered by the indigenous peoples of the inland waterways and coastal areas - having been a significant part of the First Nations economies, religions and cultures - recorded orally, as well as in the living history of their totems and art endorsing this cultural and spiritual identity.
|Spawning Salmon building redds on a riffle|
Salmon are a key species ... meaning if they disappear, their ecosystems would disproportionately change. Rotting salmon carcasses transfer valuable nutrients from the ocean to the land: scientists have traced these substances found in mosses, herbs, shrubs, trees, insects, song birds, bears and wolves ... makes you think doesn't it ... that cycle of life - and how we are such a miniscule part.
|Black Bear Cub|
That wonderful leaping silvery-pink salmon, which play such an important role in life, will return to spawn later in the year ... the bears, bald eagles, sport fisherman and the hungry human will be a-waiting.
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