E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Oncorhynchus gorbuscha (Walbaum, 1792)
Pink Salmon
Family: Salmonidae
Photo of species

© Tim Loh  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #83639)

Distribution of Oncorhynchus gorbuscha in British Columbia.
Source: Distribution map provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC
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Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 10 - 15; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 13 - 19; Vertebrae: 63 - 72. Distinguished by the presence of large black spots on the back and on both lobes of the caudal fin; the young have no parr marks (Ref. 27547). Body fusiform, streamlined, somewhat laterally compressed; moderately, deeper in breeding males (Ref. 1998). Mouth terminal, normally very little oblique but greatly deformed in breeding males, with lower jaw enlarged, turned up at tip, mouth unable to close (Ref. 1998). Adipose fin large; pelvic fins with axillary process (Ref. 27547). Fish in the sea are steel blue to blue-green on the back, silver on the sides and white on the belly; large oval spots present on the back, adipose fin and both lobes of the caudal fin (Ref. 27547). Breeding males become dark on the back, red with brownish green blotches on the sides; breeding females are similar but less distinctly colored (Ref. 27547).

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.


Species Biology

Epipelagic (Ref. 58426). Spends 18 months at sea after which spawning migration to the natal river or stream occurs; but because the species is less certain of its homing and there is a certain degree of wandering, streams as much as 640 km from natal streams may be used (Ref. 1998, 27547). Upon emerging from the gravel, fry immediately move downstream and remain inshore for a few months before going out to sea (Ref. 27547). Fry may feed on nymphal and larval insects while in fresh water, but may not feed at all. In the sea, young feed on copepods and larvacean tunicates, its diet shifting to amphipods, euphausiids and fishes as the fish grows (Ref. 27547). Other food include ostracods, decapod larvae, cirripeds, tunicates, dipterous insects (Ref. 1998, 27547). Fry may be preyed upon by birds and mammals while adults by marine mammals and large fish (Ref. 1998

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.


BC Distribution and Notes

There are still unsolved problems involving the relationships and distribution of the odd and even year broodlines in this species. Because virtually all pink salmon mature at two years, the generations spawning on odd and even years are genetically isolated from one another and often differ in life history and genetic characteristics. Usually one broodline is dominant (i.e., there is a strong run one year followed by a much smaller run the next year). At the southern end of their North American distribution (including southern British Columbia) odd year runs are dominant but, in B.C., north of the Fraser River system, many rivers support relatively strong runs on both odd and even years. From the Queen Charlotte Islands north into Alaska, even year runs are dominant. Presumably, odd and even year runs have evolved independently in different areas but the reasons for the broad geographic pattern in run-dominance is still a mystery. The pattern of mitochondrial variation in northern pink salmon indicates multiple Pleistocene divergences followed by a relatively recent (postglacial) expansion from different sources and, perhaps, different colonization routes for the odd and even year broodlines

Source: Information provided by Don McPhail for E-Fauna BC.
Global Distribution

Arctic, Northwest to Eastern Central Pacific: Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (Ref. 1998), drainages from Northwest Territories in Canada to southern California in USA; the Bering and Okhotsk seas (Ref. 1998). Western Pacific: Russian Federation (Ref. 1998), eastern Korea and Hokkaido, Japan (Ref. 559). Import restricted in Germany (Anl.3 BArtSchV). Occasionally hybridizes with Oncorhynchus keta producing fertile offspring (Ref. 28983). Introduced in Iran (Ref. 39702).

Source: FishBase. Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr 1991 A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5No StatusNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

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General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-07-17 10:30:45 PM]
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