We're About to Get Unique Look at the Life of Salmon

First-of-its-kind international expedition will study them in the sea in winter
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2022 12:42 PM CST
Scientists Depart on Mission to Unlock a Salmon 'Black Box'
Salmon swimming in the ocean.   (Getty.slomotiongli)

Scientists have a pretty good idea of the ways of salmon when the fish are in inland waters at the beginning and end of their lives. But that stretch in between, when they spend up to seven years at sea? Not so much. Now, however, a first-of-its-kind international expedition is under way to change that, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting. On Tuesday, a research vessel from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is leaving Washington state to head out for a remote stretch of the northern Pacific. There, it will join three other vessels from Canada and Russia on a research project involving about 60 scientists, per the Seattle Times. The mission? To figure out how the fish are faring at sea and to get a better sense of why the salmon population is plummeting in the Pacific Northwest.

"Once salmon leave the coastal ocean, they effectively enter a black box," NOAA researcher Laurie Weitkamp, who is taking part in the mission, tells NPR. "We don't know where they are, we don't know what they're eating, what eats them, how quickly they're growing." The researchers will use all manner of equipment, including trawling nets, to study not just salmon in the ocean near the Bering Strait but the entire ecosystem. Weitkamp says one big factor is that this research will be conducted in winter, a crucial period for the salmon that has not been studied much because of the logistics of being on the high seas at this time of year. The study is part of a project called the International Year of Salmon, and those interested can follow the progress of the ships involved via this website. (More salmon stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.