This pink salmon was caught southeast of Iqaluit on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Sam Tilley)

Rare pink salmon spotted southeast of Iqaluit

Species’ appearance is yet another sign of warming Arctic waters

By David Lochead

Sam Tilley spotted a surprising and not so attractive catch when fishing in Iqalugaaruk Lake about 65 km southeast of Iqaluit on Sunday: a pink salmon.

“It’s alien,” Tilley said of the species.

“It’s like, ‘What is that doing up here?’”

The unusual catch is yet another sign of climate change, according to a federal government biologist.

Karen Dunmall, a biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said pink salmon normally prefer warmer waters than the Arctic has been able to provide. But with the Arctic warming at up to three times the rate of the rest of the world, its waters are becoming more approachable for newcomers like this species.

“The fact that [pink salmon] are there indicates there’s change going on,” said Dunmall, who also runs the Arctic Salmon Project.

Pink salmon have previously been seen working their way to the Arctic. Earlier this year the species was spotted in Nunavik and was previously found in the western Arctic.

While pink salmon has been termed “invasive” by bodies such as the Quebec government, Dunmall prefers to not to use that term.

Dunmall said the fish is simply north because the water temperature is allowing them to migrate there. But she said it’s unlikely that pink salmon will establish themselves in the Arctic soon.

The species need waters that are not at freezing temperatures to spawn, Dunmall said, and during Arctic winters that means pink salmon will have limited options for their eggs to survive.

But Dunmall said communities that have found pink salmon have been curious as to what the implications of this species’ arrival means for their waters.

“I think it’s normal to have an immediate response to something strange or unusual as potentially negative, but we don’t know that yet for salmon,” said Dunmall.

Dunmall asks anyone in Nunavut who finds a pink salmon to send the fish to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

By examining a fish’s DNA and muscle tissue, DFO researchers may learn where the fish has been and where it’s migrated from. That in turn may help them better understand the species’ impact on the North.

“It will give us some clues to answer people’s questions about the strange fish that are showing up,” Dunmall said.

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(20) Comments:

  1. Posted by Peesee on

    I bet ya, salmon was already there and it’s just the first time finding out….lol someone already dumped them there as science experiments…my thoughts not yours

    • Posted by John K on

      “My thoughts, not your”

      This doesn’t make you less wrong; just willfully wrong.

    • Posted by Eric on

      Pinks are finding their way into Norway n Finland waterways as well….plus King Crabs that were not noticed upto 10 years ago

  2. Posted by S on

    “The unusual catch is yet another sign of climate change, according to a federal government biologist.”

    1. A federal government BIOLOGIST is wading in on an earth science phenomenon; clearly non-science

    2. Why would it be a headline or even worth commenting on the fact that EVERYONE knows that the climate is dynamic – forever and continuously changing. Is the author trying to spark debate on that tidbit of basic science? If so, why?

    • Posted by Thatdoesntmeanwhatuthink on

      You know BIOLOGIST studies the BIOLOGY of the earth right? It’s literally their job to know this, not an earth science phenomialist.

    • Posted by John K on

      Science denial is alive and well.

    • Posted by This Guy… on

      This guy doesn’t even understand what a biologist is.

  3. Posted by Iqalummiut on

    Did anybody see the dolphins in the Bay this summer?

  4. Posted by Previous occurrences on

    I think there may have been previous incidences of pink salmon in the north before, which others may have encountered but hadn’t reported

    Strange that DFO doesn’t like the word invasive species on this particular fish. What then is an invasive species? Is there criteria that DFO uses to determine what is and what isn’t an invasive species?

    But in the broader context, humans are likely the only truly invasive species on this earth – we encroach upon habitat all over the world, and take up space anywhere there are animals, marine mammals and creatures – and then have the audacity to label them as aliens – we truly are an arrogant, insular, self-serving and blood-sucking type of species

  5. Posted by David Murray on

    Stupid fish just don’t know when to stop swimming north. Maybe we should have fish and game officials post road signs so the fish know what rivers to enter!

  6. Posted by John K on

    Nothing brings out science deniers like the looming threat of a consequence they contributed to.

  7. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    There have been many southern species that have been doing “reconnaissance” beavers, insects, birds, fish etc….. Probably a sign of climate change. Sending out recon’s to see if the environment is suitable.

    • Posted by anon on

      Ten years ago there were no (or only rare) blackflies here in Iqaluit, this summer they were a pretty regular occurrence.

  8. Posted by Pain In The Groen on

    Atlantic Salmon have been found as far north as Clyde River, if not further. This is a direct result of climate change and an absolute fact and it is folly to think otherwise.

  9. Posted by FishintheRiver on

    I think it’s rare because other kinds of fish went to river for get rid of their caviar so it mixed with other kind of fish. Not to blame global warming, I should say,

  10. Posted by John on

    That is one ugly fish. I really hope this pink one will not become the norm up here, I much prefer char over salmon.

    • Posted by Guy from BC on

      I love char, but would a nice red sockeye over it. Pink salmon on the other hand is nothing great.

  11. Posted by Scotty Roxburgh on

    I was a Fishery Officer for 25 years on the west coast (British Columbia and the Yukon). Salmon have a remarkable ability to change where they return to spawn. Back in the 1970s and 80s, Sockeye salmon migrated back to the Fraser River via the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Johnstone Striate, i.e. around the south and north end of Vancouver Island. Depending if the year was a La Nina year or not the percentage of Sockeye Salmon migrating via the south or north of Vancouver Island would change. The warmer the Pacific Ocean became from the effects of La Nina the fewer Sockeye Salmon migrated through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (the south end of Vancouver Island) and the more Sockeye returned via Johnstone Strait (the North end of Vancouver Island). When Mount Saint Helens erupted the Columbia River became clog with a huge amount of silt. The Columbia River Sockeye Salmon did not return to the Columbia River due to the heavy amounts of silt in the river, but they migrated to other river systems. This was proven from scale samples that were taken from Sockeye Salmon in other river systems that year. Apart from human destruction of salmon habitat on the Fraser River, I believe that due to the increased water temperature of the Fraser River (which is human caused, and that is another lesson), the Sockeye salmon have and are moving north. Sockeye salmon catches in the Alaska Fisheries significantly increased in the late 80s and 90s while Sockeye catches in the Fraser River diminished. Back in the the 70s, Arctic Char and the odd Chum Salmon were present in the Mackenzie River. It is my understanding today that all five species of Pacific Salmon are now present in the Mackenzie River. If you, as a human being, walk into a room full of chlorine, your immediate reaction is to get out of that room so you can breath fresh air. Salmon react similarly to water temperature change, they don’t like warm water and so they go in search of habitat (river systems) that are suitable to them. To call Pink salmon invasive in Iqalugaaruk Lake may be true, but they are looking to survive because the habitat they came from is no longer suitable for them to spawn in. Sediment samples taken from lakes in the interior of British Columba and analyzed at the Cultus Lake Laboratory, going as far back as 500 years, shows that salmon presence changed over the years, some years the sockeye salmon return was large and in other years, the return was low. (This is before the major intrusion of man). Nature is doing its thing, adjusting to survive. Yvone Yule, a retired DFO salmon scale analyst with whom I worked with to prove where salmon came from for many of my court cases, stated to me that not all salmon return to their natal grounds. It is one of natures way to ensure genetic diversity amongst the species, the co-mingling of different river stocks. Pink salmon showing up in Iqalugaaruk Lake is nature’s way of taking care of the species, ensuring the survival for future generations.

  12. Posted by North Baffiner on

    I first caught Atlantic salmon in 1995 in Pond Inlet, but only past 100 feet offshore. It was following an underwater border or topographical meterage, because you either caught it at that depth, or at that distance from shore.
    Atlantic salmon don’t die off when they spawn, much like Char so the pink salmon must have been there for several years in order for a male salmon to develop into spawning metaphysical changes… guess no one was fishing for char down there for 5 years????

  13. Posted by Ken harvey on

    You want to fix climate change?? The world is overpopulated..we need about 1/3 of the population we have now if that even..alot less carbon garbage and everything else..we are stupid to think overpopulation is ok ..or are we gonna send people to Mars and Venus next???

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