David Suzuki Foundation Biologist Jeffery Young talks about what's happening with Pacific salmon this month.

By Panos Grames, Communications Specialist

There's a lot of action out in the Pacific Ocean this week. Millions of salmon heading back towards the coastal waters of British Columbia, back from an annual journey thousands of kilometers out into the north and western Pacific.

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Since last spring, salmon have been hitching a ride on the currents known as the North Pacific or Alaskan Gyre. Imagine a huge swirl of water running counter-clockwise up from British Columbia, mirroring the Alaskan shoreline, then moving down around Eastern Russia to Japan and returning eastward back to British Columbia. It is actually far more complex than a big, swirling donut of water—there are a multitude of smaller currents acting within it.

Evolution has led them to spawn in the relative stability of a fresh water environment (cool, clean and well oxygenated freshwater is perfect for incubating their eggs), followed by a move to the ocean to take advantage of the abundant food available in the marine environment.

Up the rivers connected to the North Pacific, alevin (young salmon) are hatching from eggs deposited last fall. This stage of the salmon's development sees the tiny fish still attached to yolk sacs, their only source of nutrition. That means these young salmon are surviving on stored energy from the Pacific ocean, collected in the mother's eggs while foraging in the open ocean. Still just a few centimeters long, the salmon alevin remain in the gravel bed for protection. Soon they will emerge from the streambed to venture out for food, with many becoming prey themselves.

Do you have a story about the ecology of Canada's Pacific Ocean that you would like to share? Write to us at pacific@davidsuzuki.org

February 10, 2012

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Feb 10, 2012
7:19 PM

Mr. Suzuki I have a Question I really need an answer to .I just started reading about what Embridge plans in regard to the pipeline to Kitamat .Can you please explain to this under educated Canadian why we would consider fouling our Country with stupid pipelines rather than building gas plants half a mile from the tar sands???I live in Alberta now but raised my family in Vancouver . I know the areas they are talking about there is no SAFE way or protection for the land or water once ruined my grandchidren will never see its splendor .I realize this forum was about salmon stocks but so is my question. How do we protect it ????i have a great deal of respect in your opion.

Apr 15, 2012
8:50 AM

My question is this… Seeing as the salmon spend approximately 4 years in the Pacific and must surely get a long way out in their cycle, do we as consumers need to worry about radiation contamination from Japan in our canned Pacific salmon in stores? That being said what other species of fish or crustaceans do we need to look out for? I am now very skeptical about Pacific shrimp.

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