This week, The Tyee is doing a special series on salmon! The first article, Salmon of the Future, is all about the pink salmon. Author Jude Isabella notes that while Sockeye runs have been failing, pink runs have been higher than expected for several years. Isabella explains that there are a multitude of reasons why the pinks might be faring better than the rest of their Pacific cousins.
First of all, pink salmon are on a two-year lifecycle. This means that they can evolve and adapt much faster than the other Pacific species, which typically have four- to seven-year cycles. Additionally, explains biologist Scott Hinch,
“Pink salmon don’t have much of a freshwater residency, so they’re less affected by habitat degradation in freshwater. They tend to spawn in larger rivers, not small streams, so their habitat requirements are different. They can migrate through fast moving water when they have to, and they can stand the heat better than other salmon species.” […read full article]
They are also smaller, more adaptable to warmer waters, and the first to enter the oceans – which means they are the first to get to the food. And, surprisingly enough, one advantage for pinks is that they have a tendency to “get lost” and spawn in a stream that is not their natal stream. This means that if one run collapses, the genes from that run may still be in the ocean in another population.
However, there are still challenges facing the pink salmon. Most notably, the prevalence of hatchery fish skews the picture somewhat. Also, changing ocean chemistry may be something that is happening too fast for the pinks – or any salmon – to adapt. So, it remains to be seen whether the amazing pink salmon can adapt to the next set of changes; I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping it can.
The Tyee’s series continues tomorrow with a look at the Harrison sockeye. Stay tuned here for our summaries and the links to the full articles.