It’s a fight against all odds for the mighty sockeye salmon to make it home. For every pair of salmon that returned home to the Adams River, up to 4000 eggs are released. Out of the 4000 eggs, only about 2 on average are able to survive the complete cycle to come back to the Adams River to reproduce and then die. As an egg, they need to survive being eaten as food and the water temperature need to be right for them. From each bunch of eggs, about 900 make it to the “fry” stage. Here they eat “plankton” which is developed from the Salmon parents dieing. Its somewhat tragic to think that in order for the species to survive, the parent salmon also have to die. As they continue to grow in the lake they are called “parr” and then when they reach an adult’s hand size, “smolts”.
After 2 or 3 years in the lake, they are strong enough for the next adventure…heading to sea. About 250 smolts from the initial 4000 eggs of a pair, take about 3 weeks to get there. The smolts face yet another danger as they meet salty sea water for the first time. They swim near the surface where the river floats on top of the ocean to get acclimatized and their kidneys get used to the extra salt.
Once at sea, the salmon must survive and overcome problems of water pollution (plastic and styrofoam), hunters like sharks, tunas, swordfish, sea lions, etc. People fish for sockeye as well. While it’s a great food source for humans, nets used to catch fish are sometimes left behind as garbage and create invisible traps that kill fish and other animals.
After 2 years at sea, when they are 4 years old they return to their home rivers. This is called a 4 year return cycle. How do they do this? They say they “smell” their way following a scent of water as it flows along. They can sense through their pores changes in the water, its chemistry, electrical charge, and pressure and can tell whether they’re in their birth stream river lake or sea. Out of the 4000 initial eggs from the pair of salmon, only 2 make it back home to reproduce.
The Sockeye Salmon life cycle is both a tragic and miraculous story of endurance and perseverance. There are any number of things that can tip the scale to reduce the numbers and it’s important we are all guardians of the environment to enable this special creature to continue.
Witness the sockeye arriving home at the Adams River at the Salute to the Sockeye festival. There is an interpretative centre that can answer any question that you have. For the festival, they have a wonderful artisan market where local artists sell their wares all in the celebration of the return of the sockeye. Art in the Shuswap also has several paintings depicting this significant part of our natural environment.
Art in the Shuswap – all art is original and you can use the contact us page if you would like more information about any of the art or would like to purchase. Double click on the painting to see a larger view.