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Salmon Harvest

December 26, 2006

A listener asks: Why don’t we eat salmon after they spawn, to help conserve them?


Why salmon don’t mate before they’re on a plate. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

After hearing a Science Update about threatened salmon populations, Merrie Smith from Mendocino, California, called to ask why we catch and eat salmon before they’ve spawned. We went back to University of Alberta salmon expert Martin Krkosek. He says that when salmon reach their spawning streams, they stop eating and metabolize their own flesh for fuel. On top of that, competing for mates and digging nests for eggs takes its toll.

MARTIN KRKOSEK (University of Alberta, Canada):
So by the time they’re actually spawning, their bodies are really worn out, from fighting with each other, from digging, and they’re also usually heavily infected with fungus; they’re generally just really gross.

Very ecological—but not very palatable. If you’ve got a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-ISIT. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.