Category Archives: Chinook Salmon

West Coast Sees Decline In Chinook Salmon Populations

Fishing, one of the largest industries on the West Coast, was just recently delivered alarming news. The most massive Chinook salmon fish which are known as “kings” and revered for their large size have seen substantial decreases and have nearly completely disappeared along the west coast. This has been the principal finding of a study from the University of Washington which is published in late February in the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries.
In this study, over 40 years of data for the populations of these fishes all along the West Coast from California to Alaska were analyzed to detect patterns which have emerged during the last four decades. As a whole, the population of Chinook salmon have seen the most substantial declines in Alaska in both age and size with Washington salmon not far behind.
This particular breed of salmon are known for being the most abundant Pacific salmon and are highly valued because of their size. This has the potential to affect recreational and subsistence fisheries which typically target these fish.
Chinook salmon normally began life in freshwater and then move to salt water climates where they spend most of their adulthood. The lifestyle of the fish varies depending on where they can find sustenance, with California Chinook typically staying in the marine waters off the coast while other populations such as the ones found in Oregon and Washington have been known to migrate over thousands of miles northward towards the Gulf of Alaska to find feeding grounds.
At the end of their adult lives which typically last from one to five years, the fish will return home to the streams where they produce their offspring before passing away. Regardless of the differences in lifestyle for these populations of fish a real reduction in the average size of returning fish over the last four decades has been recognized with some extreme cases showing up to a 10% shorter links in the average fish.
This reduction globally and the size of fish suggest that something about the ocean climate as a whole is driving the patterns rather than regional fishing patterns. As of now, there is not one specific reason for the change in size and age. However, data tends to support that pressure from fishing and Marine mammal predators are the two most significant factors.