Wordtrade LogoWordtrade.com
Earth Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Behavior And Ecology Of Pacific Salmon And Trout by Thomas P. Quinn (University of Washington Press) (Hardcover) Pacific salmon are a remarkable group of animals, and the connections to their ecosys­tems and to humans may be more complex and profound than any other group of ani­mals, and certainly more than any other group of fishes. First, though perhaps not foremost, they are collectively among the most valuable commercial fishery resources of the United States, with annual landed values that averaged $390 million from 1992 to 2001 according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistical reports. This is matched only by taxa such as crabs and shrimp that are taken from both oceans and include many diverse species. The finfish species that dominate the tonnage landed, walleye pollock and Atlantic menhaden in recent years, are lower in value than salmon despite their volume.

In addition to their commercial value, salmon are the target of recreational fisheries with significant value to local economies. Perhaps more important than the amount of money spent in pursuit of salmon is the psychological uplift (often mixed liberally with frustration) that comes with time spent outdoors fishing alone or in the company of family and friends. Salmon also hold a special place in the culture, nutrition, and economy of peoples native to the coast of the North Pacific Ocean. They were traditionally im­portant for food and for barter, and they continue to be a very important component of the culture and commerce of many groups. The salmon have been adopted as the region's icon by non-native peoples as well. One need only visit the gift shops in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage, and many smaller communities to see that salmon are readily embraced by modern society. Certainly, large trees and snow-capped mountains are also icons of the region, but somehow we do not connect with them as strongly as we do with salmon. The image of the salmon, leaping a waterfall in its heroic

but tragic effort to get home, reproduce, and die, is among the most recognizable in the natural world, and it strikes a chord with us.

Salmon are not only important for cultural and consumptive purposes, but their conservation and management presently pervade the regulatory environment of their ecosystem. Past and present human activities, including but not limited to mining, agri­culture, hydroelectric production, flood control, forestry, shoreline development, and urbanization, all affect salmon. Increasingly, these activities are regulated because of their effects on salmon. One cannot understand water management in the Columbia River system or forestry on the Oregon coast without understanding salmon. Salmon have also been at the heart of many conceptual and technological advances in fisheries science and management.

Besides the complex roles that salmon play for people, they play equally important and complex roles for other organisms. Most streams they inhabit are nutrient-poor, and the annual return of salmon to spawn and die provides a pulse of food that directly and indirectly enriches the plants and animals in nearby aquatic and terrestrial ecosys­tems. Finally, the salmon's influence on their ecosystem is not limited to natural pro­cesses but they have indirect effects through humans as well. Because salmon are so important, people will modify land-use practices to benefit them when they would have done nothing for amphibians or less charismatic fishes. The northern spotted owl was granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and was vilified in a way that salmon never will be. Put simply, salmon are special.

The natural history of salmon is important for people seeking to understand these fishes, the North Pacific ecosystems in Asia and North America, and their management by humans. I hope this book will provide insights into the basic biology of salmon to a range of people, including university students and faculty, biologists working in agen­cies, nongovernmental organizations, and companies devoted to salmon or to some as­pect of the natural or human world that interacts with them. In addition to these people with a direct need to know about salmon, I hope the book will also interest members of the public who wish to learn about these fishes or become involved in their conserva­tion. However, this book is not designed for advocacy. My goal is not to sway opinion but to inform and excite the reader. I will have succeeded if I have conveyed some of my enthusiasm for salmon and if I have stimulated readers to question my ideas, formulate and test their own hypotheses, and expand our knowledge of salmon.

The book is entitled The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout. As will be explained more fully later, the term "Pacific salmon" has traditionally been applied to five species of fishes in the genus Oncorhynchus that are native to the North American and Asian coasts of the Pacific Ocean, and to two (or one) species native only to Asia. Trout, notably rainbow (and their sea-run form, known as steelhead) and cutthroat but also lesser-known species such as Apache, golden, and Gila trout, have been included in the genus Oncorhynchus since 1989. The fishes of the genus Oncorhynchus are the sub­jects of the book. In addition to this genus, there are two other major genera in the family Salmonidae: Salmo (including Atlantic salmon and brown trout, both native only to Atlantic drainages) and Salvelinus (the char, including species in all continents around the north temperate and boreal regions). The introductory chapter provides thumbnail sketches of the common fishes in the family found in western North America and Asia.

The rest of the book is focused on the traditional salmon species and steelhead and cutthroat trout, though there are some references to other species. This scope reflects my own knowledge and the richness of the published literature (both of which thin out greatly after the five North American salmon and two trout species). However, I believe that the major points in behavior and ecology of the groups are amply demonstrated in these species and my focus on them is not misleading.

Just the seven principal species of Pacific salmon and trout (often, for convenience, referred to collectively as salmon) are described by a truly vast scientific literature. It is impossible to do justice to the tremendous volume and variety of excellent work that has been done. If I tend to cite my own research it is only because it is familiar to me, not because it is superior to the work of others. It is equally impossible to present all the unusual life-history patterns, habitats, and other ecological circumstances of salmon. I have tried to give both the general patterns and some exceptions that seem instructive, but there will always be some population or site that does not fit the patterns I described. In the interests of a readable book, some compromises were needed.


Headline 3

insert content here