Atlantic salmon are incredible fish that migrate thousands of miles in their lifetime from saltwater to freshwater habitats to spawn. Migrations are incredible to watch, with salmon leaping their way up streams and waterfalls!
Amazing Facts About the Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic salmon are incredible fish that migrate thousands of miles during their lifetime. They live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats. They are carnivorous and are the largest species within the genus Salmo. The heaviest Atlantic Salmon ever recorded weighed 100 lb (45 kg)!
Where do Atlantic Salmon live?
They live in North American, European and Baltic waters.
What is the life cycle of Atlantic Salmon?
When they are young, Atlantic salmon live in freshwater, but when they are older, and known as “smolts”, they migrate to the sea to begin their saltwater stage, which will last between one to four years.
If this wasn’t enough travelling for Atlantic salmon, they also migrate back from the sea, upriver, to spawn. This makes them anadromous, and often involves leaping up waterfalls and weirs!
How far do Atlantic Salmon migrate?
The exact figure is not known, but it is hundreds of miles.
Where to Atlantic salmon spawn?
Amazingly they return to spawn very close to, or the exact location of where they were born.
What do Atlantic Salmon Eat?
They are carnivorous, meaning that they predate on and eat other animals. These include sand eels and stoneflies.
Interestingly, once salmon start their migration back upstream to spawn, they do not eat. Instead, they live off their body fat.
How big are Atlantic Salmon?
Adults are usually 28 to 30 in (70 to 76 cm) in length, and usually weigh 8 to 12 lb (4–6 kg). But the heaviest recorded Atlantic Salmon was a whopping 100 lb (45 kg)!
Can Atlantic Salmon feel pain?
Yes, it is now widely accepted that fish, including Atlantic Salmon, feel pain. Evidence that Atlantic Salmon feel pain includes the finding that they alter their behaviour in response to a negative experience.
Do all Atlantic Salmon behave the same?
No! Scientists have shown that – like many other species of fish – Atlantic Salmon have individual personalities. Some salmon are shyer than others!
What threats do Atlantic Salmon face?
Atlantic Salmon are farmed intensively for human consumption; the three biggest salmon producing countries are Norway, Chile and Scotland.
Being kept on fish farms means that Atlantic Salmon cannot express their normal, migratory behaviour. They also cannot escape threats that they would in the wild, including predators, aggression from other fish, harmful algal blooms and jellyfish.
Salmon farming doesn’t just harm farmed salmon, it has a negative impact on wild Atlantic salmon. It can enable the spread of disease and parasites and escaped salmon can compete or interbreed with wild individuals.
Will climate change impact Atlantic Salmon?
Yes. Atlantic Salmon have evolved so that they are well adapted to the current environment. Any changes in the environment through climate change may reduce Atlantic Salmon survival rates.
For example, the timing of juvenile migration from freshwater to saltwater is based on environmental cues. If water temperature increases with climate change, juvenile fish may migrate too early, when they are not yet ready to live in a saltwater environment.
Already, climate change is impacting Atlantic Salmon. Populations in warm countries such as Spain are becoming smaller.
- Type: Fish
- Diet: Carnivore
- Life span: 13 years maximum
- Size: 28–30 in
- Weight: 8–12 lb
- Habitat: Freshwater and Saltwater
- Range: North America, Europe and Baltic waters
- Scientific name: Salmo salar