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Scientists issue PSA after discovering worrisome shift in salmon behavior: 'Fascinating in itself'

"If they don't align in terms of having open, ice-free water, salmon don't turn that corner."

"If they don't align in terms of having open, ice-free water, salmon don't turn that corner."

Photo Credit: iStock

According to a new study, warming ocean temperatures have led more Pacific salmon to make their way into the Canadian Arctic, Nature World News reported.

What's happening?

Scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that warming ocean temperatures led to a chain of events that significantly altered the migratory patterns of Pacific salmon. 

The salmon were first drawn through an ocean "gate" in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska by unusually warm late spring water temperatures. They were then drawn through a second gate in the Beaufort Sea, northeast of Alaska, which was free of ice because of the warmer-than-usual waters.

"You need both gates to be open, which is fascinating in itself," Curry Cunningham, an associate professor at UAF's College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, said. "If they don't align in terms of having open, ice-free water, salmon don't turn that corner."

Why are these migratory changes concerning?

While salmon have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to colder waters, and their changing migratory patterns may be good news for subsistence fishermen in Canada who can now catch fish that were previously inaccessible to them, this is a worrying trend overall.

As the ocean temperatures continue to rise largely because of human-caused pollution and the overheating of our planet, we are now seeing how these changes can alter ecosystems — and as species begin showing up in places where they previously weren't found, that can have ripple effects and unforeseen consequences throughout the system. 

These changes don't just affect animals, but they affect the weather as well. The latest El Niño period starting in 2023 has been more intense than ever and has seen record-breaking ocean temperatures.

What's being done about it?

The broader ecological impacts of salmon venturing further north than ever before still need to be studied, the researchers said.

As far as preventing the ocean from getting even hotter, there are many things individuals can do. But as a society, it is vital that we take steps to reduce our reliance on polluting forms of dirty energy like gas and oil, switching instead to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Put simply, the planet cannot keep up with so much fossilized plant matter being burned into the atmosphere on top of normal ecological activities. 

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