By Heather Robison
Every year millions of sockeye salmon swim back to their birthplace to reproduce. It’s a miracle of nature that completes the life cycle of these incredible fish. One of the best places in the world to see this wonder is along the gravel beds and clear waters of Adams River in British Columbia’s Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is proud to share the celebration as media sponsor for the 2014 Salute to the Sockeye Festival that took place from in October.
Just Keep Swimming
As sockeye salmon travel from the ocean back to the river beds where they were born they swim quickly upstream through treacherous rapids. They do not stop to eat as they head home. As sockeye complete the gruelling, 485 kilometre swim from the mouth of the Pacific Ocean back to Adams River their blue-grey bodies transform into a brilliant red. The fish are in no danger of getting lost though. The sense of taste, smell and the earth’s magnetism was imprinted on their brains at birth.
The Circle of Life
Once back home, the salmon pair up and search for clean gravel with fast flowing water. The female turns on her side and digs a nest with her fin. She lays about 4,000 eggs in this nest, which is called a redd. Within 10 days after spawning the pair die providing a protein source for other wildlife as well as nutrients for the ecosystem. The eggs hatch three to four months later. About 100 million of the hatchlings survive and venture from home about a year after birth, heading out to the ocean to feed just as their predecessors did. They will spend about three years in the ocean before returning to the river to reproduce.
It is critical to share the stories of the salmon with as many people as possible. CWF welcomed the opportunity to get involved in the Salute to the Sockeye Festival. We were onsite from October 5th to the 13th, with an educational display in the interpretive area. We also created an innovative website to catch the interest of the general public as well as students and educators. Our bait included a salmon quiz, blog a festival photo gallery and fish-themed activities. We also tackled some common questions about salmon life cycles.
Fishing for a Compliment
Sockeye salmon are an important food source for aquatic invertebrates, fish, marine mammals, birds and terrestrial mammals. They are also an indicator of ecosystem health, an important part of traditional culture and a source of income for coastal communities. The Salute to the Sockeye Festival has been presented by B.C. Parks and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans every four years on a dominant run since 1954. The Adams River Salmon Society was established in 1994 to help organize and run the event. CWF commends all those involved for their dedication to conservation and education. We thank the 300,000 festival visitors and all our online supporters for helping honour this epic migration. Read more.