What really is a “Salmon”?
There are two distinct families of salmon. The family Oncorhynchus and the family Salmo. The family Oncorhynchus is found in the pacific ocean and the family Salmo is found in the Atlantic. There are both androgenous fish, meaning that they hatch in streams and rivers, and travel out to sea where they spend a 4-7 feeding in rich ocean waters, finally returning to spawn at the same stream from whence they came. Below is an diagram of the life cycle of salmon, both Atlantic and Pacific. As shown there are 6 key features in a salmon life. They start off as eggs and then hatch into alevins, where they rely off of fluids attached to their body in the form of a yoke. After this yoke is used, the salmon are called fry and are large enough to venture into larger streams. This is also the stage at which hatcheries release salmon into streams. The salmon will continue to grow and travel down the stream, finally reaching estuaries where the Salmon develops into a smolt. At the smolt stage the Salmon undergoes changes vital for survival in the oceans. After the smolt stage the salmon have reached maturity and travel into the ocean where they spend 1-5 years, ( the length of time depends on species). In the adult stage it will work to build up extensive fat reserves that will allow it to travel back upstream and spawn in the river of its origin.
Salmon in our society
Salmon is the second most common type of seafood consumed in the US, more common than canned tuna. It is a staple of the modern american diet. Generally speaking, most Atlantic salmon that is eaten today is a product of salmon farms that are distributed worldwide. This is not the case for pacific salmon, where almost all fish that is sold at a commercial level is wild caught fish coming from tightly regulated fisheries. salmon, as a fish, have a diverse history that has contributed significantly to the lore of Salmon runs “so thick that you could walk across them.” While this lore has never been proven, it is true that because salmon are so popular, and have maintained this popularity for millennia, there populations have been significantly impacted over time. The history of this fish is long and complex, but has become more and more important as their populations have declined and people have searched for ways to save the populations and varieties of this iconic fish.
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