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Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), also called red salmon or blueback salmon, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Pacific Oceanmarker. In landlocked water bodies this species is called the Kokanee. It is the third most common Pacific salmon species, after Pink and Chum salmon. The name "sockeye" is believed to be a folk adaptation of the anglicization of sθə́qəy̓, , its name in Halkomelem, the language of the indigenous people along the lower reaches of the Fraser River.

Range and habitat

It ranges as far south as the Columbia River in the eastern Pacific (though individuals have been spotted as far south as the 10 Mile River on the Mendocino Coast of Californiamarker) and northern Hokkaidō Islandmarker in Japanmarker in the western Pacific, and as far north as Bathurst Inletmarker in the Canadian Arctic in the east and the Anadyr Rivermarker in Siberiamarker in the west. Landlocked populations occur in the Yukonmarker Territory and British Columbiamarker in Canadamarker, and in Alaskamarker, Washingtonmarker, Oregonmarker, Californiamarker,New Yorkmarker, Utahmarker, Idahomarker, Montanamarker, Coloradomarker,New Mexicomarker, and Wyomingmarker in the United Statesmarker.

Physical description

Male and female sockeye salmon
A sockeye can be as long as and weigh . It has an elongated, torpedo-shaped body, with an adipose fin, and a bluntly-pointed snout. The gill rakers are located just behind the head and are long and closely spaced. Its coloration changes as it migrates from saltwater to freshwater in preparation for spawning. In freshwater, its color is bright red with a pale green head; females may have green and yellow marks or stains. Its color in saltwater is bluish-green on top, silvery on the bottom, with uniform, shiny skin.

Reproduction

Sockeye are blue tinged with silver in color while living in the ocean. Just prior to spawning both sexes turn red with green heads and sport a dark stripe on their sides. Males develop a hump on their back and the jaws and teeth become hooked during their move from salt to fresh water.

Sockeye spawn mostly in streams having lakes in their watershed. The young fish, known as fry, spend up to three years in the freshwater lake before migrating to the ocean. Some stay in the lake and do not migrate. Migratory fish spend from one to four years in salt water, and thus are four to six years old when they return to spawn one summer (July-August). Navigation to the home river is thought to be done using the characteristic smell of the stream, and possibly the sun.

Some fish spend as long as four years in fresh water lakes before migrating. In rivers without lakes, many of the young move to the ocean soon after hatching. These salmon mature after one to four years in the ocean. Some sockeye live and reproduce in lakes and are called "kokanee." They are much smaller than the ones that go to the ocean and are rarely over long. In Okanagan Lakemarker and possibly in other locations there are two populations of Kokanee. One spawns in streams and one spawns in the lake near the shore.File:Lake Washington Ship Canal Fish Ladder pamphlet - ocean phase Sockeye.jpg|Male ocean phase SockeyeFile:Lake Washington Ship Canal Fish Ladder pamphlet - male freshwater phase Sockeye.jpg|Male freshwater phase SockeyeFile:Sockeye Sea Water Stage.JPG|Sockeye salmon caught on an Alaskan streamImage:kokaneespawn.jpg|Spawning Kokanee salmon in the Sawtooth Range of Idaho

Diet

Sockeye Salmon, unlike other species of Pacific Salmon feed extensively on zooplankton during both freshwater and saltwater life stages. Their many gill rakers strain the plankton from the water. This diet may be the reason for the striking hue of their flesh, as well as their very low concentration of methyl mercury. They also tend to feed on small aquatic organisms such as shrimp.

Population status

Sockeye salmon are currently listed under the U.S.Endangered Species Act by the National Marine Fisheries Service as an endangered species in the Snake River (Idahomarker, Oregonmarker and Washingtonmarker area) and as a threatened species in Lake Ozettemarker, Washington. Other sockeye populations in the upper Columbia River and in Puget Soundmarker (Washington) are not listed under the Act.

For reasons currently unknown, but speculated to be overfishing and pollution, Fraser River-bound sockeye have all but disappeared. Both native and commercial fisheries based and situated around the Columbia River, Washington have reported between a 30 and 90 percent decrease in the amount of mature salmon returning to the Fraser River, British Columbiamarker to spawn. Several wildlife organizations and nature preservation groups have urged a moratorium if not a cessation of capture until an extensive environmental impact study can be completed.

In 2009, only 1.7 million of the forecasted 10.4 million sockeye returned to the Fraser River, a 50-year low.

Causes of the decline include overfishing, spawning habitat destruction, climate change and unauthorised fishing by First Nations people, along with disease and parasites spread from open-pen salmon farms, although the latter two remain controversial. Warming waters invite salmon predators such as squid and mackerel from further south. The Broughton Archipelagomarker hosts some two dozen farms, past which many sockeye swim.

Stocks of coho and chinook are down by a similar proportion.

Commerce

This species is netted commercially using seinesmarker and gillnets for fresh or frozen fillet sales and canning, especially in Bristol Baymarker, Alaskamarker, site of the largest harvest of sockeye salmon, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The species is preferred for canning due to the rich orange-red flesh. More than half of the sockeye salmon caught today are sold frozen.

Fresh sockeye also tends to fetch a higher price than other salmon, as they are considered the most flavorful and flexible of the family.

When smoked, Sockeye has a stronger flavour and firmer texture than Coho salmon. Sockeye is popular for fly fishing, when it returns to freshwater to spawn and is an acrobatic and powerful fighter.

Notes

References



Technical Reports



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