The Long Journey of Salmon

SalmonNoyoCenterFor those who like fishing, salmon is an exception to get fish that tastes just right delicious with rich flavor, the meat is pink to reddish and the texture is firm, the bone is relatively soft and easily separated, and large enough fish to catch with minimum 30 centimeters in length. Salmon is a blessing in nature for humans, bears, and other living things.

Learning from bears, salmon can be caught without using fishing rods or other equipment, only by hands, often they approach because of their instinct to swim forward or when trapped in shallow water. The meaning of salmon derives from Latin word salmo that originally from the ancient Celtic word salio with the meaning to leap. Most Salmon are instinctively good jumpers.

The desire for us to catch and eat the raw salmon (sashimi) and steak can be reduced or even completely gone if we know, learn, and appreciate their struggle, especially on the long trips to return to their original place home to reproduce, mate and breed.

Wild salmon are easily captured during a “sacred journey” to the intended direction; which in the past was the place when they were born. Salmon are destined to be of anadromous nature, they are born in fresh water and spend their adult life in sea water, then return to freshwater rivers or lakes to mate and lay eggs.

The migration of salmon to find the right direction based on the earth’s magnetic field. We have been able to find that magnetic North Pole is moving in the past month and cause the unpredictable and extreme weather that may also disturb salmon migration to find their long journey home.

Basically, there are 2 types of salmon, namely those originating from the Pacific Ocean (Onchorhynchus spp.) and from the Atlantic Ocean (Salmo salar). There are two species of Pacific salmon that only live in Asian waters: Masu salmon and Amago salmon.

In British Columbia (BC), Canada there are 5 species of wild salmon that are Chinook, Sockeye, Pink, Coho, and Chum salmon which are often trapped and caught as males spawning-phase as shown on the picture above (courtesy of Noyo Center for Marine Science).

Today’s salmon have been tested by nature, they have evolved about 6 million years ago. Chinook salmon travel through freshwater – sea water – back to freshwater about 10 thousand miles or 16 thousand kilometers before they mate and lay eggs. For those who succeed should be appreciated, many of them have eaten by their predators including humans during their long journey.

After mating a female salmon may lay between 2 to 5 thousand eggs and only less than 2% of eggs that hatch can be successful live and continue for the survival of the fittest. It takes 2.5 – 3 years for salmon eggs to hatch and becoming adults and spawners.

Salmon are generally semelparous, meaning they will die after breeding, laying and guarding their eggs. Exceptions occur in Atlantic salmon, they are anadromous but can lay eggs more than once. This is a good fact for the fish farmers because this type of salmon can be breed and domesticated by humans.

It’s well known that wild salmon taste better than farmed salmon because they eat more diverse foods in the sea. Wild salmon having fewer calories and less saturated fat. According to the Cleveland Clinic report, the risky pollutants such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens), unsafe contaminants, and antibiotics in wild salmon has lower levels and is considered safer than farmed salmon.

As both wild and farmed salmon contain contaminants and come with risk if eaten in large quantities, moderate eaten of salmon are the best. The contaminants in farmed salmon mostly come from their medication, excessive feed and feces. While the wild salmon populations began declining due to the more pollution in their habitat in the fresh water and salt water, also due to the over-fishing, land development, and build dams.

According to CBC News, salmon was the first genetically engineered animal approved for sale as food in Canada in May 2016. The Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) salmon is engineered from a growth hormone-regulating gene a Chinook salmon, with promoter from an ocean pout, was added to the Atlantic salmon’s 40 thousand genes. Producer of GMO salmon it sold 4.5 tonnes in Canada in 2018. The salmon, patented under the name AquAdvance Salmon, is engineered to grow at twice the rate of regular salmon and using 20 – 25% less feed than farmed salmon.

The long journey of salmon until our dining table is getting easier and cheaper but think twice before consuming the wild salmon, farmed salmon, and or GMO salmon. The appreciation to salmon is start from the nature, domestication, and then the risky business in fish industry using GMO salmon.

– Bintoro Gunadi

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