Thousands of Fugitive Fish Have Scientists Asking: Can Atlantic Salmon Survive In The Pacific?

Oct 25, 2017

Last summer’s escape of more than 100,000 Atlantic salmon from a fish farm in Puget Sound renewed a debate among scientists about whether or not these fish can survive long term in the Pacific Northwest.

Atlantic salmon have entered Pacific waters for decades. Most of them have died of starvation. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of colonizing the Northwest.

John Volpe is a professor at the University of Victoria. He said the odds have never been better for these fugitive fish. That’s because there aren’t as many steelhead to compete with.

“Steelhead make their living in the freshwater environment in very much the same way as Atlantic salmon do; in the same place, consuming the same things,” Volpe said.

Mike Rust is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He said Atlantic salmon could make their way from saltwater to rivers and streams to spawn.

“Consequences would be just physically being in the way, disturbing nests,” Rust said.

Rust said biologists are checking spawning grounds and will remove any Atlantic salmon they find.

Copyright EarthFix, 2017