Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) are a charismatic creature in Cascadia. Not only do they provide interesting life history to study due to their fresh to salt water migrations and their fatal reproduction, but this species’ vibrant ruby red and emerald green spawning coloration has earned it a place in the folklore and culture of communities throughout the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years. It is this closely knit relationship with aboriginal people from which the sockeye derive their name, from the coastal Salish words sukkai and suk-kegh meaning fish or red-fish.
Sockeye salmon pass through the waters of Cascadia including the Columbia basin and Fraser basins including the famous worlds largest run in Adams River of the Fraser basin. Sockeye salmon in the both the Fraser and Columbia basins have declined substantially from historic levels with historic runs were as large as 3 million fish in the Columbia and 23 million (1993) in the Fraser. Reasons for these declines are diverse and sometimes speculative, while raising concerns that have given birth to commissions and conservation efforts.
The complexity of the life cycle of sockeye salmon and the significant physiological changes that occur between each stage of the salmon’s life make them particularly susceptible to a changing environment. A metastudy of the state of climate change research on sockeye salmon reveals that the temperature increases expected as a result of climate change have been closely examined for every life stage of the sockeye salmon. Although information on temperature effects are thorough, information on other potentially fluctuating key environmental variables is lacking.
Read a report on sockeye salmon in Cascadia with basic background information, climate change considerations, and opportunities and needs for adaptation planning and projects unique to this species. Report prepared in summer 2013 by Cascadia Partner Forum fellow Jon Bepple.
Additional species resources
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sockeye Salmon Information Page
- NOAA FishWatch: Sockeye Salmon page
- The Uncertain Future of Fraser River Sockeye. Cohen Commission, 2012.