CONSERVATION: Sockeye Salmon Spawning

Story and Photographs by Andrew Snyder

 

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) making the jump up a small falls en route to spawning – Katmai, Alaska. © Andrew Snyder

 

Andrew Snyder is a new NANPA board member, a professional biologist and photographer, and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Mississippi.  He recently posted a piece on maptia.com, a website devoted to stories and photography of the natural world, about the annual spawning of sockeye salmon, which return to freshwater rivers from the Pacific Ocean each year to lay their eggs.

When sockeye salmon are born, they spend between one and two years in freshwater lakes or streams.  Then, they migrate to the ocean and spend two or three years there.  Once they’re ready to spawn, they head back to the river where they were born.

 

A bear feasts on the remains of a salmon that it pulled from the river. © Andrew Snyder

The journey from the Pacific back to the rivers is difficult and requires the salmon to expend a great deal of energy.  Although the biological cycle associated with salmon ensures that they will die after they lay their eggs, many die from exhaustion or in the jaws of a predator before they can spawn.

Interestingly, while in the ocean, the salmon are silver with blue tinges.  When they return to freshwater to spawn, their color changes to bright red, except for the head, which changes to green.

 

A young bear plots the best path for reaching the group of salmon passing by. ©Andrew Snyder

 

To read Andrew’s article on maptia.com, the link is

https://maptia.com/andrewmsnyder/stories/spawning-of-the-sockeye