Pink salmon

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Pink salmon
Humpback Salmon Adult Male.jpg
Male ocean phase pink salmon
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Genus: Oncorhynchus
O. gorbuscha
Binomial name
Oncorhynchus gorbuscha
(Walbaum, 1792)
Male spawning phase pink salmon Pink salmon FWS.jpg
Male spawning phase pink salmon
Male pink salmon caught by a fly fisherman in its freshwater spawning phase PinkSalmon1.jpg
Male pink salmon caught by a fly fisherman in its freshwater spawning phase
Pink salmon spawning in the Indian River, Sitka, AK, September 2018 Sitka spawning salmon 180906.jpg
Pink salmon spawning in the Indian River, Sitka, AK, September 2018

Pink salmon or humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family. It is the smallest and most abundant of the Pacific salmon. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name for this species gorbúša (горбуша), which literally means humpie.



In the ocean, pink salmon are bright silver fish. After returning to their spawning streams, their coloring changes to pale grey on the back with yellowish-white belly (although some turn an overall dull green color). As with all salmon, in addition to the dorsal fin, they also have an adipose fin. The fish is characterized by a white mouth with black gums, no teeth on the tongue, large oval-shaped black spots on the back, a v-shaped tail, and an anal fin with 13-17 soft rays. During their spawning migration, males develop a pronounced humped back, hence their nickname "humpies". Pink salmon average 4.8 pounds (2.2 kg) in weight. [1] The maximum recorded size was 30 inches (76 cm) and 15 pounds (6.8 kg). [2]


The native range of the species is in the Pacific and Arctic coastal waters and rivers, from the Sacramento River in northern California to the Mackenzie River in Canada; and in the west from the Lena River in Siberia to Korea and Honshu in Japan. In North America pink salmon spawn from the Mackenzie River in the Arctic [3] to as far south as tributaries of Puget Sound, Washington, although they were also reported in the San Lorenzo River near Santa Cruz, California in 1915 [4] and the Sacramento River in northern California in the 1950s. [5] In 2013 a new record for the southernmost extent of spawning pink salmon was published for the Salinas River. [6] In the fall of 2017 a dozen pink salmon were counted in Lagunitas Creek about 25 miles (40 km) north of San Francisco, California. [7]

Pink salmon were introduced into the Great Lakes of North America, where there are now self-sustaining populations, [8] and in Iran.[ citation needed ] In Europe, pink salmon have been periodically introduced to rivers of the White Sea and Barents Sea basins in Russia since 1956. Stray fish from these rivers have been encountered ascending to rivers also in Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Great Britain and Iceland, and in Norway even self-sustaining populations have been observed. [9] In 2017 larger numbers than usual of this species were caught in rivers in Scotland and spawning was recorded. [10] In 2021, they were reported to have invaded Akerselva in downtown Oslo, the capital of Norway. [11]



Pink salmon are coldwater fish with a preferred temperature range of 5.6 to 14.6 °C, an optimal temperature of 10.1 °C, and an upper incipient lethal temperature of 25.8 °C.


Pink salmon in their native range have a strict two year life cycle, thus odd and even-year populations do not interbreed. In the state of Washington, Pink salmon runs occur on odd years. [12] Adult pink salmon enter spawning streams from the ocean, usually returning to the stream where they originated. Spawning occurs between late June and mid-October, in coastal streams and some longer rivers, and in the intertidal zone or at the mouth of streams if hyporheic freshwater is available. Using her tail, the female digs a trough-shaped nest, called a redd or rede (Scandinavian word for "nest"), in the gravel of the stream bed, where she deposits her eggs. As she expels the eggs, she is approached by one or more males, which fertilize them as they fall into the redd. Subsequently, the female covers the newly deposited zygotes, again with thrusts of her tail, against the gravel at the top of the redd. The female lays from 1,000 to 2,000 eggs in several clutches within the redd, often fertilized by different males. Females guard their redds until death, which comes within days of spawning. In dense populations, a major source of mortality for embryos is a superposition of redds by later-spawning fish. The eggs hatch from December to February, depending on water temperature, and the juveniles emerge from the gravel during March and April and quickly migrate downstream to estuaries, at about one-quarter gram in weight. The fish achieve sexual maturity in their second year of life. They return to freshwater in the summer or autumn as two-year-old adults. Pink and chum salmon sometimes interbreed in nature to form the hybrid known as the miko salmon[ citation needed ]; the hybrids are sterile.


In their freshwater stage, juvenile pink salmon consume invertebrates and zooplankton. In the ocean, they feed on a variety of plankton, invertebrates, and small fish. [13] Adults do not feed as they return to freshwater to spawn.

Predators and trophic interactions

Many different animals feed on pink salmon throughout their life cycle, from small fish, birds, and mammals in freshwater ecosystems when the salmon are eggs or fry, through large fish, seabirds, and marine mammals when they are in the ocean. [14]

Eggs and the carcasses of spawned salmon adults can provide substantial nutrient subsidies to freshwater food webs. Where pink salmon are expanding into subarctic Norwegian rivers, their eggs are consumed by native salmonids. [15] In the Keogh River in Canada, higher numbers of pink salmon eggs were shown to reduce competition among other fish species relying on this food source. [16] Bears feed on adult migrating salmon, and choose to predate on salmon which have not yet spawned and thus are more nutritious, when they have a choice. [17] Many of the pink salmon that are caught by bears in Alaska are transported away from the water into riparian areas and forests, [18] and nutrients from the carcasses end up in plants and trees. [19] Carcasses of pink salmon that successfully spawn decompose rapidly, and are colonized by aquatic invertebrates in the process. [20] These resource subsidies to stream habitats can increase the growth of other salmonid species in the streams. [21]

Conservation status

NatureServe lists the pink salmon as critically imperiled in California, and imperiled in Washington. In Alaska and British Columbia, they are considered secure. [22] No Pink salmon Evolutionary Significant Units are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Fisheries and use

Alaskan pink salmon in its freshwater spawning phase. Pink Salmon (3)editresize (16273595915).jpg
Alaskan pink salmon in its freshwater spawning phase.

The commercial harvest of pink salmon is a mainstay of fisheries of both the eastern and western North Pacific. In 2010, the total harvest was some 260 million fish, corresponding to 400,000 tonnes. Of this, 140 million fish were from Russian fisheries and 107 million from the USA (Alaska). [23] Pink salmon account for 69% of the total Russian salmon fisheries. [24] The majority of pink salmon are harvested using coastal set net traps, and the fisheries are concentrated on the east coast of Sakhalin (average 110,000 tonnes per year). [25]

In North America, beginning in the late 19th 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, drift nets or gillnets. Populations and harvests increased rapidly after the mid-1970s and have been at record high numbers since the 1980s.

More than 20 million harvested pink salmon are produced by fishery-enhancement hatcheries, particularly in the northern Gulf of Alaska. [26] Pink salmon are not grown in significant numbers in fish farms. The fish are often canned, smoked or salted. Pink salmon roe is also harvested for caviar, a particularly valuable product in Asia.

Related Research Articles

Salmon Family of fish related to trout

Salmon is the common name for several species of ray-finned fish in the family Salmonidae. Other fish in the same family include trout, char, grayling, and whitefish. Salmon are native to tributaries of the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Many species of salmon have been introduced into non-native environments such as the Great Lakes of North America and Patagonia in South America. Salmon are intensively farmed in many parts of the world.

Trout Number of species of freshwater fish

Trout are species of freshwater fish belonging to the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo and Salvelinus, all of the subfamily Salmoninae of the family Salmonidae. The word trout is also used as part of the name of some non-salmonid fish such as Cynoscion nebulosus, the spotted seatrout or speckled trout.

Fish migration Movement of fishes from one part of a water body to another on a regular basis

Many types of fish migrate on a regular basis, on time scales ranging from daily to annually or longer, and over distances ranging from a few metres to thousands of kilometres. Fish usually migrate to feed or to reproduce, but in other cases the reasons are unclear.

Salmon run

The salmon run is the time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again. The annual run can be a major event for grizzly bears, bald eagles and sport fishermen. Most salmon species migrate during the fall.

Rainbow trout Fresh-water species of fish

The rainbow trout is a trout and species of salmonid native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. The steelhead is an anadromous (sea-run) form of the coastal rainbow trout(O. m. irideus) or Columbia River redband trout (O. m. gairdneri) that usually returns to fresh water to spawn after living two to three years in the ocean. Freshwater forms that have been introduced into the Great Lakes and migrate into tributaries to spawn are also called steelhead.

Steelhead trout Fresh-water species of fish

Steelhead Trout is a name given to the anadromous form of the coastal rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus. m. irideus) or redband trout (O. m. gairdneri). The steelhead are native to freshwater and ocean environments across North America, but have been introduced to every other continent except Antarctica. Steelhead use aquatic obstructions like vegetation, boulders, and fallen trees as protection. Steelhead migrate to spawn during the summer months and the winter months.

Chum salmon Species of fish

The chum salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family. It is a Pacific salmon, and may also be known as dog salmon or keta salmon, and is often marketed under the name silverbrite salmon. The name chum salmon comes from the Chinook Jargon term tzum, meaning "spotted" or "marked", while keta in the scientific name comes from the Evenki language of Eastern Siberia via Russian.

Chinook salmon Species of fish

The Chinook salmon is the largest species of Pacific salmon as well as the largest in the genus Oncorhynchus. Its common name is derived from the Chinookan peoples. Other vernacular names for the species include king salmon, Quinnat salmon, Tsumen , spring salmon, chrome hog, Blackmouth, and Tyee salmon. The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name chavycha (чавыча).

Cutthroat trout Species of fish

The cutthroat trout(Oncorhynchus clarkii) is a fish species of the family Salmonidae native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains, and Great Basin in North America. As a member of the genus Oncorhynchus, it is one of the Pacific trout, a group that includes the widely distributed rainbow trout. Cutthroat trout are popular gamefish, especially among anglers who enjoy fly fishing. The common name "cutthroat" refers to the distinctive red coloration on the underside of the lower jaw. The specific name clarkii was given to honor explorer William Clark, coleader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Sockeye salmon Species of fish

The sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, kokanee salmon, or blueback salmon, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it. This species is a Pacific salmon that is primarily red in hue during spawning. They can grow up to 84 cm in length and weigh 2.3 to 7 kg (5–15 lb). Juveniles remain in freshwater until they are ready to migrate to the ocean, over distances of up to 1,600 km (1,000 mi). Their diet consists primarily of zooplankton. Sockeye salmon are semelparous, dying after they spawn. Some populations, referred to as kokanee, do not migrate to the ocean and live their entire lives in fresh water.

Coho salmon Species of fish

The coho salmon is a species of anadromous fish in the salmon family and one of the five Pacific salmon species. Coho salmon are also known as silver salmon or "silvers". The scientific species name is based on the Russian common name kizhuch (кижуч).

<i>Oncorhynchus</i> Genus of fishes

Oncorhynchus is a genus of fish in the family Salmonidae; it contains the Pacific salmon and Pacific trout. The name of the genus is derived from the Greek ὄγκος + ῥύγχος, in reference to the hooked jaws of males in the mating season.

Puget Sound salmon recovery is a collective effort of federal, state and local authorities and non-profit coalitions of universities, scientists, business and industry aimed at restoring Pacific salmon and anadromous forms of Pacific trout (Oncorhynchus) within the Puget Sound region. The Puget Sound lies within the native range of the Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus) and two sea-run forms of Pacific trout, the coastal rainbow trout or steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout. Populations of Oncorhynchus have seen significant declines since the middle of the 19th century due to over fishing, habitat loss, pollution and disease. Salmon species residing in or migrating through the Puget Sound to spawning streams include Chum, Coho, Chinook, Sockeye, and Pink salmon. Pacific salmon require freshwater rivers for spawning and most major tributaries of the Puget Sound have salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout spawning runs.

Mattole River river in the United States of America

The Mattole River is a river on the north coast of California, that flows northerly, then westerly into the Pacific Ocean. The vast majority of its 62 miles (100 km) course is through southern Humboldt County, though a short section of the river flows through northern Mendocino County. Communities, from north to south, closely associated with the Mattole River include: Petrolia, Honeydew, Ettersburg, Thorn Junction, and Whitethorn. The river enters the ocean at the Mattole Estuary about 4 miles (6.4 km) west-southwest of Petrolia and 10 miles (16 km) south of Cape Mendocino.

Big River (California) River in Mendocino County, California (USA), south of Mendocino Village

The Big River is a 41.7-mile-long (67.1 km) river in Mendocino County, California, that flows from the northern California Coast Range to the Pacific Ocean at Mendocino, Mendocino County, California. From the mouth, brackish waters extend 8 miles (13 km) upstream, forming the longest undeveloped estuary in the state.

Coastal cutthroat trout Subspecies of fish

The coastal cutthroat trout, also known as the sea-run cutthroat trout, blue-back trout or harvest trout, is one of the several subspecies of cutthroat trout found in Western North America. The coastal cutthroat trout occurs in four distinct forms. A semi-anadromous or sea-run form is the most well known. Freshwater forms occur in both large and small rivers and streams and lake environments. The native range of the coastal cutthroat trout extends south from the southern coastline of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska to the Eel River in Northern California. Coastal cutthroat trout are resident in tributary streams and rivers of the Pacific basin and are rarely found more than 100 miles (160 km) from the ocean.

Aquaculture of salmonids

The aquaculture of salmonids is the farming and harvesting of salmonids under controlled conditions for both commercial and recreational purposes. Salmonids, along with carp, and tilapia are the three most important fish species in aquaculture. The most commonly commercially farmed salmonid is the Atlantic salmon. In the U.S. Chinook salmon and rainbow trout are the most commonly farmed salmonids for recreational and subsistence fishing through the National Fish Hatchery System. In Europe, brown trout are the most commonly reared fish for recreational restocking. Commonly farmed nonsalmonid fish groups include tilapia, catfish, sea bass, and bream.

Environmental issues with salmon

Salmon population levels are of concern in the Atlantic and in some parts of the Pacific. Salmon are anadromous - they rear and grow in freshwater, migrate to the ocean to reach sexual maturity, and then return to freshwater to spawn. Determining how environmental stressors and climate change will affect these fisheries is challenging due to their lives split between fresh and saltwater. Environmental variables like warming temperatures and habitat loss are detrimental to salmon abundance and survival. Other human influenced effects on salmon like overfishing and gillnets, sea lice from farm raised salmon, and competition from hatchery released salmon have negative effects as well.

Diseases and parasites in salmon Overview of diseases and parasites in salmon

This article is about diseases and parasites in salmon, trout and other salmon-like fishes of the family Salmonidae.

Pre-spawn mortality is a phenomenon where adult coho salmon, Oncorhynchus kisutch, die before spawning when returning to freshwater streams to spawn. It is also known as Urban Runoff Mortality Syndrome in more recent studies. This occurrence has been observed in much of the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest. During fall migration, salmonids pass through urban watersheds which are contaminated with stormwater runoff. As the coho salmon pass through these waters, many will show symptoms of lethargy, loss of equilibrium and disorientation, and die within a few hours of showing these symptoms. These symptoms and behaviors are prevalent after rain events. Mortality often occurs before salmon have the opportunity to spawn, which is determined by cutting open female carcasses and observing for unfertilized eggs. Rates of pre-spawn mortality could impact the local salmon populations. Based on model projections, if rates continue, populations of coho salmon could become extinct within the next few decades.



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