Aquaculture North America

The BCSFA comments on the global pink salmon boom

August 23, 2023
By Maryam Farag

"Fisheries scientists say that, over the past 50 years, pink salmon populations have steadily increased to the point of concern."

According to the BC Salmon Farmers Association, since records have been kept, the Pacific Ocean has never hosted as many salmon as today. The pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), one of the five main Pacific salmon species, has thrived as climate change pushes water temperatures to record highs.

As most other salmon species venture further into the northern hemisphere seeking cooler waters and food, pink salmon dominate many rivers to the south. Pinks have begun to expand their range into the Atlantic Ocean, with hundreds of thousands being captured in Norway and many more appearing on the United Kingdom and Newfoundland coastlines.

“The success of pink salmon is due to global ocean conditions favouring them. While this news can be viewed as a positive for wild salmon populations, researchers are raising concern about the pink salmon’s dominance.”

“While it is good that abundance of sockeye, chum, and pink salmon is high, there is growing evidence that this high abundance, especially pink salmon, is impacting the offshore ecosystem of the North Pacific and Bering Sea,” said Dr. Greg Ruggerone, lead researcher of a 2018 study on salmon abundance in the North Pacific Ocean.


Additional researchers, such as Dr. Dick Beamish, state that high pink salmon returns one year usually mean low sockeye returns the next and that due to climate change, the carrying capacity of the ocean is changing, meaning salmon are migrating to areas where they are not typically found, and where the ocean conditions are more favourable.

For B.C. salmon farmers, adapting to a changing environment brought about by climate change has been key to the sector’s success over its 40-year history in B.C., and it will be equally important for future resilience. It is known that large populations of adult pink salmon are a potential source of sea lice on farm-raised salmon when they return to natal rivers each autumn. In response to this challenge, B.C. salmon farmers will remain vigilant in monitoring and managing sea lice levels on their salmon to the low levels established by regulatory authorities.

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