Often known as the King of fish, salmon are powerful, sleek, silver fish prized for both their sporting qualities and desirable culinary characteristics. The name ‘salmon’ is given to several types of fish belonging to the Salmonidae family which spend their young life in fresh water and then migrate to the sea where they mature into adults.

Salmon may travel huge distances in the sea to specific feeding grounds before returning to fresh water to reproduce. In a remarkable but poorly understood feat of navigation, a salmon may find its way back to the specific river, tributary and even pool of its original birth.

After mating, all Pacific salmon and many Atlantic salmon die. This sacrifice helps enrich the river with nutrients to the ultimate benefit of the salmon’s offspring. Salmon, in effect, transfer a huge amount of biomass from the oceans into fresh water habitats sometimes deep into the interiors of countries. This plays a vital role in the ecology of these river systems and provides important sustenance for a whole range of wildlife, from aquatic insects to bears. On a human scale, salmon rivers act as life-lines too. In the past, returning salmon provided essential supplies of food to many rural communities and, even today, the first returns of fish each year are celebrated in many villages and towns.

Salmon are also highly prized by sport-fisherman who will pay considerable sums and travel long distances for the challenge of hooking a fish on rod and line. Sport fisherman of course follow the salmon upriver and, much like the salmon, play an important role in transferring much needed resources into rural communities,— creating local jobs, trade and increasing cash flow. The Salmon Atlas graphically displays these salmon life-lines and by making potential visitors aware of the opportunities, hopefully will encourage more fishing, more travel and help emphasise the importance of preserving salmon populations in these communities.

Types of salmon

There are two main groups of salmon: Atlantic and Pacific which take their names from the oceans they inhabit. Trout and char also belong to the Salmonidae family and also have sea-going varieties which follow a life cycle and habitat very similar to their salmon cousins. Steelhead is the common name given to rainbow trout that migrate to the sea, and sea trout is the common name given to brown trout which migrate. Arctic char also commonly migrate to the sea where they grow considerably. And, like salmon, these fish all make fine eating and offer superb sport.


The Salmonidae Family Tree
Scientific Name Common Name
Kingdom: Animalia Animals
Phylum: Chordata  Animals with spinal chords
Class: Actinopterygii Ray-finned fish
Order:  Salmoniformes Salmon-like fish
Family: Salmonidae Salmon family
Atlantic Salmon
Genus: Species: Common name:
Salmo salar Atlantic salmon
Pacific Salmon
Genus: Species Common names:
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha Chinook salmon, King salmon, Spring salmon, Quinnat salmon, Tyee salmon
Oncorhynchus kisutch Coho salmon, Silver salmon, “silvers”
Oncorhynchus nerka Sockeye salmon, Red salmon, Blueback salmon, Kokanee
Oncorhynchus gorbuscha Pink salmon, Humpback salmon
Oncorhynchus keta Chum salmon, Dog salmon, Keta salmon
Oncorhynchus masou Seema, Cherry salmon, Japanese salmon, Masu salmon
Oncorhynchus masou formosanum Taiwanese salmon, Formosan salmon (none sea going)
Oncorhynchus masou ishikawai Satsukimasu salmon, Red-spotted masu salmon, amago (none sea going)
Genus: Species Common names:
Salmo trutta Brown trout (sub sp. fario) and sea trout (sub. sp. trutta – sea going)
Salmo labrax, obtusirostris, etc Black Sea salmon, Adriatic trout and many others
Oncorhynchus mykiss Rainbow trout (several sub-species varieties) and steelhead (sea going)
Oncorhynchus clarkii, etc Cutthroat (several sub-species varieties)
Oncorhynchus gilae apache Apache trout, Arizona trout
Oncorhynchus chrysogaster Mexican golden trout
Oncorhynchus masou Yamame, Biwa trout, Iwame trout, Markless trout (sub-species varieties)
Genus: Species Common names:
Salvelinus alpinus Arctic char, dolly varden. Fresh water and sea going varieties.
Salvelinus fontinalis Brook trout, coaster trout, speckled trout
Salvelinus namaycush Lake trout, lake char, Touladi, Togue, grey trout, Siscowet, paperbelly
Hucho (Taimen)
Genus: Species Common names:
Hucho perryi Sakhalin taimen (sea going) – Endangered
Hucho hucho Huchen, Danube salmon (none sea going)
Hucho hucho taimen Taimen, Siberian taimen (none sea going)
Genus: Species Common names:
Brachymystax lenok Lenok, Siberian Lenok, Mongolian Lenok, Manchurian trout
(none sea going).