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Mankind's Impact on Atlantic salmon

posted on 04/17/2012
Man has been responsible for the loss of countless species over our reign on the world. Many fish have been casualties of our carelessness with resources and our lack of understanding about the interconnectedness of everything around us. One of the more current species that is on the brink is wild Atlantic salmon. These fish are highly popular for food consumption, and while our efforts to minimize overfishing have been strident, the populations of these fish are still on the decline.

What we are starting to learn is that many of our activities have caused indirect strain on the population of these fish, meaning that fewer salmon are making it adulthood. The unique thing about wild salmon is that they start their lives in freshwater, spend the duration of their lives in the sea, and then swim upstream to the place of their birth to reproduce. Not only is this an illustration of the complexity of nature, it also means that problems with both fresh and saltwater are putting a strain on these populations.

Water Acidification and Chemical Pollution

Acid rain, while not so much an issue anymore, has left its lasting presence on our freshwater sources. The occurrence of acid rain led to the acidification of many of our streams and rivers, which has led to the die off of Atlantic salmon populations attempting to swim back up these streams for mating. So too, the introduction of harsh chemicals into our waterways as effluent has really put a strain on the populations of these fish. Fewer salmon are even making it to maturity to make it back upstream, which is causing a crash in their population.

Dam Construction and Other Water Retention/Redirection Efforts

Though it isn't entirely understood, salmon swim a certain path back to their birth grounds in order to mate themselves. Damming efforts, the creation of reservoirs and any efforts that redirect the waterways is a threat to the fish’s ability to make it back to their breeding grounds. Large scale damming projects and other issues that affect the natural layout and flow of the waterways has caused the decline in the population of these fish.

Cross-Contamination of Wild and Aquaculture Stocks

With wild salmon on the decline, and the demand for salmon on the rise, many have turned to aquaculture to produce farmed salmon to meet demand. The problem with this is, sometimes a farmed fish ends up in the wild waterways. Interbreeding with farmed fish contaminates the gene pool of wild Atlantic salmon and threatens their populations. Our efforts to find an alternative to the wild fish, in order to further protect it while still trying to meet the demands of consumers, has actually stood to make the problem worse.

Mankind has caused a lot of damage to the natural landscape and the various plant and animals species that inhabit them. Salmon are just one of the species that we have affected. This fish has had protective measures put in place for it and yet, the populations of these fish are still on the decline. Indirect strains such as the waste that ends up in our waterways and our efforts to control nature, have made it more difficult for the salmon to not only reach maturity, but to have access to routes back to their birthplace, where they naturally spawn.

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