There are some species of fish that pack the punch of star power.
In this case, the chinook salmon aka: the King salmon has that honor due to it’s sheer size. If there is anything to know about chinook salmon, it’s that they can get huge. They grown to be about 3 feet in length, but it’s the weight that can greatly vary. The average weight for the chinook is about 40 pounds but it can get as large as 120 pounds.
The spectacle the chinook make returning to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery in Stanley, Idaho is even a lure for a family outing. But there is another reason that all eyes on are the big fish: the chinook has been deemed an endangered species.
Spawning & Habitat
Chinook salmon are part of the tshawytscha species. Another name for them is the King salmon due to their massive size. They are the biggest of all salmon. The name Chinook comes from the salmon’s native Alaska and Siberia.
They spawn in freshwater and may live there for two months to three years before migrating to the ocean to mature. They feed on insects in land and in water when they are babies and on other fish when they mature. Their lifespan can last from 2 to 6 years.
The Chinook have a bluish-green back with silver fins. There are two types of Chinook that have been identified: “stream-type” that live in large river systems and migrate to the central North Pacific and “ocean-type” found in streams off the North American coast.
What’s Killing Them
As with many kinds of salmon, there are a variety of factors threatening the population of the Chinook. Both human and environmental issues are causing harming the Chinook’s habitat and environment, shortening the lifespan of the fish and threatening spawning habits.
Dams are a huge threat to all types of salmon. Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are hurting several species of endangered fish. Reports indicate the debate rages on about whether those dams should be dismantled.
Overfishing is also a threat to the Chinook, as well as the diversion of water resources away from their natural habitat. Nature-related challenges, such as drought and floods, also play a role in altering the environment where the big fish thrive. Habitat loss is a number one threat to all wildlife, which may end up with no where to safely hatch their eggs, hunt an adequate food supply or hide themselves from predators.
Because the Chinook salmon typically get a lot of attention, it is no surprise conservationists begin to speak up about dwindling numbers. To offset the threats to the Chinook, strategies by experts include:
● Spawning and rearing in captivity at hatcheries
● Removing or modifying dams that obstruct population growth
● Restoring habitats that have deteriorated
● Improving water quality and water flow
Experts are also observing that Chinook salmon may be evolving to avoid threats against it, indicating the big fish may have its own ideas about ensuring its survival.