Atlantic Salmon

The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and in rivers that flow into the north Atlantic. Major Connemara salmon fisheries: Erriff river, Ballynahinch river. In Connemara fishing for salmon is highly regulated. The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is found in the northern Atlantic Ocean and in rivers that flow into the north Atlantic. It has also been introduced to the north Pacific. Atlantic salmon breed in the rivers of: Western Europe from Northern Portugal north to Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and the east coast of North America from Connecticut in the United States north to northern Labrador and Arctic Canada. Atlantic salmon which have escaped from the aquaculture industry have also been found breeding in rivers tributary to the Pacific Ocean in British Columbia on Canada s west coast. The name, Salmo salar, is from the Latin   Salmo  , meaning salmon, and   salar  , meaning   leaper,   however a more likely meaning   resident of salt water.   It is also known as bay salmon, black salmon, caplin-scull salmon, fiddler, grilse, grilt, kelt, landlocked salmon, ouananiche, outside salmon, parr, Sebago salmon, silver salmon, slink, smolt, spring salmon or winnish. Atlantic salmon in general are migratory. They spawn in freshwater streams where the eggs hatch and juveniles grow through several distinct stages before they migrate to the sea to mature. They then return to their original stream to spawn. Some examples of fully freshwater (  landlocked  ) populations of the species exist. None are known in Connemara. The Atlantic salmon constructs a nest or   redd   in the gravel bed of a stream. The female creates a powerful downdraught of water with her tail near the gravel to excavate a depression. After she and a male fish have respectively shed eggs and milt (sperm) upstream of the depression, the female again uses her tail, this time to shift gravel to cover the eggs and milt which have lodged in the depression. Unlike Pacific salmon, the Atlantic salmon does not die after reproducing and can return numerous times during its life. Once hatched the freshwater life phases of Atlantic salmon vary, depending on the river, from between one and eight years.  In northern rivers they tend to stay for 4 years but in more southern rivers they leave after one year. The longest stay has been recorded in Canada where smolts up to 8 years old have been recorded. River temperature seems to be a determining factor. The warmer the river the earlier the smolt migrates to the sea. The first phase of the Atlantic salmon  s life is the Alevin stage. The newly hatched salmon stay in the breeding ground and uses the remaining nutrients in their yolk sac as food. Their gills develop and they become active hunters once the yolk sac is empty. They then become fry. At this stage they grow and leave the breeding ground in search of food. Juveniles start eating tiny invertebrates, and as they mature, they may occasionally eat small fish. Some have been known to eat salmon eggs. The most commonly eaten foods include caddis flies, blackflies, mayflies, and stoneflies. The final freshwater stage is when they become Parr and prepare to migrate to the Atlantic as Smolt. In the fresh water phase up to 40% of the young salmon are eaten by trout. Birds and other fish also prey on them. Their migration generally happens between March and June. During this time they must adapt to increased water as they approach the sea. The salmon spend up to 4 years in the Atlantic Ocean mostly on the continental shelf off Greenland. and grow rapidly. Their major food sources are Arctic squid, sand eels, amphipods, Arctic shrimp, and herring.  During this phase they are prey to humans, Seals, Greenland sharks, skate, cod, and halibut. Once above around 250 g, the fish no longer become prey for birds and many fish, although seals do prey upon them. Seals that commonly eat Atlantic salmon are the grey and common seals. Survivability to this stage has been estimated at between 14% and 53%. During this 4 year period the Atlantic salmon enter the grilse phase and they prepare to return to their original stream. It is thought that the unique chemical signature of the stream is a major role in them finding the exact stream in which they hatched. Atlantic salmon change colour during their lives.  During their early freshwater time they have blue and red spots. Once they mature they change to a silver blue sheen. When they reproduce, males take on a slight green or red colour. Wild salmon disappeared from many rivers during the twentieth century due to overfishing and habitat change. By 2000 the numbers of Atlantic salmon had dropped to critically low levels. The main commercial value of the remaining wild Atlantic salmon stocks is as sports fish. Sport fishing communities, mainly from Iceland and Scandinavia, have joined in the North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) to buy away commercial quotas in an effort to save the wild species of salmon. The commercial fishery of Atlantic salmon has virtually disappeared due to extensive habitat damage and overfishing. Wild fish make up only 0.5% of the Atlantic salmon available in world fish markets. In the 1950s, salmon from rivers in the US and Canada, as well as from Europe, were discovered to gather in the sea around Greenland and the Faroe Islands. A commercial fishing industry was established, taking salmon using drift nets. After an initial series of record annual catches, the numbers crashed: between 1979 and 1990, catches fell from four million to 700,000. The market is supplied with farmed salmon from Ireland, (Connemara having the second largest commercial salmon farm in Europe), Norway, Chile, Canada, the UK, Faroe Islands, Russia and Tasmania in Australia. Salmon fishing has been controlled by legislation for over 800 years since the time of Edward 1 of England.