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The Fish

137 Species Rely on Pacific Salmon

By Ed Hunt

137 Species

Pacific salmon do a strange thing. After they spawn, they die.

In evolutionary terms, it seems counterproductive. Wouldn't it be better if each fish lived to rear its young, and perhaps even get a second shot at spawning?

It turns out that Pacific Salmon, in their own way, are providing for their offspring. When salmon swim upstream, they are returning to the waters where they themselves hatched years before — their bodies plump with eggs as well as the bounty of the seas.

After spawning, they leave their nutrient-rich carcasses behind. Many of the microscopic creatures that nibble on the carcasses eventually become prey for the next generation of fish. And so the parents nourish the young.

But salmon provide more than an indirect food source for baby salmon. At least 137 different species — from grizzly bears to gray wolves — depend on salmon for part of their diet. Even trees and plants benefit from the nutrients brought back by salmon from the seas.

It is awe-inspiring when you think about it. This mighty fish struggles up stream, jumping waterfalls, and its last act is sacrificing its body to ensure that the community that will raise its children will be thriving, teeming with life.

Which begs the question, what are we doing for our community, for the next generation?

Imagine what could be accomplished if we devoted our energies to the future the way that salmon do. Imagine if you will, a Nation of such salmon-people, leaping great obstacles to make a better place for their offspring and their ecosystem.

Isn't it time you put your carcass to work?
Species Poster
Get the poster! Featuring the fun artwork of Shannon Wheeler, and the above essay.
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Harlequin Duck Osprey Bald Eagle Caspian Tern Black Bear Grizzly Bear Northern River Otter Killer Whale Cope's Giant Salamander Pacific Giant Salamander Pacific Coast Aquatic Garter Snake Red-throated Loon Pied-billed Grebe Clark's Grebe American White Pelican Brandt's Cormorant Double-crested Cormorant Pelagic Cormorant Great Blue Heron Black-crowned Night-heron Turkey Vulture California Condor Common Goldeneye Barrow's Goldeneye Common Merganser Red-breasted Merganser Golden Eagle Bonaparte's Gull Heermann's Gull Ring-billed Gull California Gull Herring Gull Thayer's Gull Western Gull Glaucous-winged Gull Glaucous Gull Common Tern Arctic Tern Forster's Tern Elegant Tern Common Murre Marbled Murrelet Rhinoceros Auklet Tufted Puffin Belted Kingfisher American Dipper Steller's Jay Black-billed Magpie American Crow Northwestern Crow Common Raven Virginia Opossum Water Shrew Coyote Gray Wolf Raccoon Mink Bobcat Northern Fur Seal Northern (Steller) Sea Lion California Sea Lion Harbor Seal Pacific White-sided Dolphin Gyrfalcon Peregrine Falcon Killdeer Spotted Sandpiper Snowy Owl Willow Flycatcher Tree Swallow Violet-green Swallow Northern Rough-winged Swallow Bank Swallow Cliff Swallow Barn Swallow Harbor Porpoise Dall's Porpoise Snapping Turtle Western Pond Turtle Western Terrestrial Garter Snake Common Garter Snake Pacific Loon Common Loon Yellow-billed Loon Horned Grebe Red-necked Grebe Western Grebe Sooty Shearwater Brown Pelican Great Egret Snowy Egret Green Heron Trumpeter Swan Mallard Green-winged Teal Canvasback Greater Scaup Surf Scoter White-winged Scoter Hooded Merganser Red-tailed Hawk Greater Yellowlegs Franklin's Gull Mew Gull Black-legged Kittiwake Pigeon Guillemot Ancient Murrelet Gray Jay Winter Wren American Robin Varied Thrush Spotted Towhee Song Sparrow Masked Shrew Vagrant Shrew Montane Shrew Fog Shrew Pacific Shrew Pacific Water Shrew Trowbridge's Shrew Douglas' Squirrel Deer Mouse Red Fox Gray Fox Ringtail American Marten Fisher Long-tailed Weasel Wolverine Striped Skunk Mountain Lion White-tailed Deer Black-tailed Deer Minke Whale Sperm Whale Humpback Whale Northern Rightwhale Dolphin