Salmo salar (Atlantic salmon)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural Food Sources
- Water Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Salmo salar Linnaeus, 1758
Preferred Common Name
- Atlantic salmon
Other Scientific Names
- Salmo brevipes Smitt, 1882
- Salmo caerulescens Schmidt, 1795
- Salmo goedenii Bloch, 1784
- Salmo gracilis Couch, 1865
- Salmo hamatus Cuvier, 1829
- Salmo hardinii Günther, 1866
- Salmo nobilis Olafsen, 1772
- Salmo ocla Nilsson, 1832
- Salmo renatus Lacepède, 1803
- Salmo rilla Lacepède, 1803
- Salmo salar biennis Berg, 1912
- Salmo salar brevipes Smitt, 1882
- Salmo salar brevipes relictus Berg, 1912
- Salmo salar europaeus Payne, Child & Forrest, 1971
- Salmo salar lacustris Hardin, 1862
- Salmo salar saimensis Seppovaara, 1962
- Salmo salmo Valenciennes, 1848
- Salmo salmulus Walbaum, 1792
- Trutta relicta Malmgren, 1863
- Trutta salar Linnaeus, 1758
International Common Names
- English: bay salmon; black salmon; caplin-scull salmon; common Atlantic salmon; fiddler; grayling; grilse; grilt; kelt; landlocked salmon; n. Atlantic salmon; ouananiche; ouinanish; outside salmon; parr; salmon; salmon peel; salmon, Atlantic; sea salmon; sebago salmon; silver salmon; slink; smolt; spring fish; spring salmon; winnish
- Spanish: salmó; salmón; salmón del Atlántico
- French: saumon Atlantique; saumon d'eau douce; tacon Atlantique
- Russian: Amerikanskiy atlanticheskiy losos'; losos; semga
Local Common Names
- Belarus: losos
- Canada: fiddler; grilse; grilt; landlocked salmon; ouananiche; parr; unaniche
- Canada/British Columbia: k'wolexw; sináech; st'thkway'
- Canada/Newfoundland and Labrador: breeder; kavisilik
- Canada/Quebec: kumaliq; saama; saamakutaak; saamarug; sâma; saumon Atlantique; saumon d'eau douce
- Chile: salmón del Atlántico
- Czech Republic: losos Atlantsky; losos obecný
- Denmark: Atlanterhavslaks; Atlantisk laks; gravlaks; laks; nedfaldslaks; skællaks
- Estonia: salmon
- Faroe Islands: laksur; smolt
- Finland: graavisuolattu lohi; kutenut lohi; lohi
- Germany: Atlantischer Lachs; Atlantischer Salmon; Echter Lachs; Lachs; Las; Salm; Salmling; Wildlachs
- Greece: solomos; solomós
- Greenland: kapisalirksoak; kapisilik; kebleriksorsoak
- Iceland: graflax; hoplax; lax
- Ireland: an bradán; bradan; braden; salmon
- Isle of Man (UK): braddan; salmon
- Italy: salmo; salmone; salmone Atlantico; salmone del Reno
- Japan: sake masu-rui
- Latvia: losos
- Netherlands: drooggezouten gekruide zalm; hengst; ijle zalm; jacobzalm; zalm
- Norway: laks; laks Atlantisk; lax
- Poland: losos; losos szlachetny a. Atlantycki
- Portugal: salmao; salmâo; salmão; salmâo-do-Atlântico; salmão-do-Atlântico; sãlmao-do-Atlântico
- Romania: somon de Atlantic
- Slovakia: losos obycajný
- Spain: salmó
- Sweden: gravlax; gullspångslax; lax; vraklax
- Turkey: alabalik Atlantik
- UK: black salmon; common Atlantic salmon; grilse; kelt; parr; salmon; sea salmon; silver salmon
- UK/England and Wales: eog
- USA: sebago salmon
- Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro): losos; salmon
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Native to the north Atlantic and rivers that flow into it, S. salar has been introduced to many parts of the world for the purposes of aquaculture (and in some locations for sport fishing or fisheries). Concerns have been raised over the negative impacts of its farming on native fish populations and the surrounding environment. Transmission of disease and hybridization with wild populations are of particular concern. Jonsson and Jonsson (2006) reviewed the interactions between cultured and wild Atlantic salmon and reported that the fitness of wild salmon was superior to that of cultured salmon in all aspects of survival and reproduction and that the lifetime reproductive success of farmed fish was only 17% that of similar-sized wild salmon. However, they concluded that as a result of ecological interaction and through density-dependent mechanisms, cultured fish may displace wild conspecifics to some extent, increase their mortality, and decrease their growth rate, adult size, reproductive output, biomass, and production. Hindar et al. (2006) modelled the future of wild salmon populations experiencing invasions of escaped farmed salmon. Simulations with a fixed intrusion rate of 20% escaped farmed salmon at spawning suggested that substantial changes take place in wild salmon populations within ten salmon generations (∼40 years). In a study conducted in Norway, Fiske et al. (2006) found a significant positive correlation between the incidence of escaped farmed salmon in the rivers at the county level and the intensity of salmon farming, measured as the number of farmed salmon in net pens, suggesting that restriction in salmon farming may reduce the impact of escapees in salmon populations nearby. Welcomme (1988) reported that compared to Salmo trutta, which is highly invasive and is implicated in the extirpation of native fish in many regions of the world, S. salar was a poor colonizer and had rarely been associated with species loss. It was one of the 100 invasive species listed in 2004 by the Oregon Invasive Species Council (Oregon Invasive Species Council, 2005), but was removed from the list in 2015 (Oregon Invasive Species Council, 2016).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Salmoniformes
- Family: Salmonidae
- Genus: Salmo
- Species: Salmo salar
DescriptionTop of page
The Atlantic salmon is a species of ray-finned teleost fish in the family Salmonidae with a graceful fusiform body. It is the largest species in the genus Salmo. Sea-run Atlantic salmon usually attain a larger size than do landlocked salmon (those living in entirely fresh water). Sea-run wild salmon range from 2kg to 9kg depending, largely, on fish sea age (i.e. how long they have lived at sea); the maximum published weight and age are 46.8kg and 13 years respectively (Froese and Pauly, 2018). The world record rod-caught Atlantic salmon weighed 35.9 kg and was caught in the Tana River of Norway (Renzi, 1999). The maximum attainable total length is around 150 cm for males and 120 cm for females (Froese and Pauly, 2018). (Farmed salmon are harvested at between 3kg and 6kg GWE (gutted weight equivalent), with the most common size in the range 4kg to 5kg GWE; the standard conversion factor from GWE to LWE (live weight equivalent) is a factor of 1.19 -- Marine Harvest, 2018).
As described in detail by Froese and Pauly (2018), the Atlantic salmon has an elongate, laterally compressed body with a distinct caudal peduncle. A fleshy adipose fin is present between the dorsal and forked caudal fin. The mouth extends only to the area below the rear of the eye and has well-developed teeth. The number of gill rakers may range from 17 to 24 and the number of vertebrae from 58 to 61. Small parr have 8-11 pigmented bars along each side of the body that alternate with a single row of red spots along the lateral line. These marks are lost when fish reach the smolt stage, when body colour becomes silvery and the dorsal area shows shades of green, blue and brown. Adult body colour varies, but fish are generally silver-skinned with distinct dark blue-green, cross-like spots over the body and head, and above the lateral line. The skin is protected by mucus secreted by goblet cells in the epidermis. At spawning the skin and fins thicken and the body colour of both males and females turns dark. The head of the male becomes elongated and grows a "kype" from the tip of the lower jaw, making males and females easily distinguished. (Further information on morphology from ASF, 2018; Jonsson and Jonsson, 2011; and Renzi, 1999). When compared to wild salmon, farmed salmon often have worn fins with wavy fin-rays and more spots both above and below the lateral line (Fiske, 2012).
DistributionTop of page
Salmo salar is found in the Atlantic Ocean in the temperate and arctic zones in the northern hemisphere (ASF, 2018). It is native to the basin of the North Atlantic Ocean, from the Arctic Circle to Portugal in the eastern Atlantic, in Iceland and southern Greenland, and from the Ungava region of northern Quebec south to the Connecticut River (Scott and Crossman, 1973). Landlocked stocks are present in Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway (Kazakov, 1992) and in North America (Scott and Crossman, 1973). Atlantic salmon are farmed in a number of countries around the world, not restricted to the native range; these include the USA (Puget Sound and Maine), Canada (British Columbia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick), Chile, Australia (Tasmania), New Zealand, Ireland, the UK (Scotland), Norway, the Faeroe Islands, Russia (Murmansk and Barents Sea), and Iceland (Marine Harvest, 2018). Introductions for angling and escapes from culture have led to the establishment of wild populations in the north-east Pacific, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand; these are usually landlocked, but anadromous breeding has been recorded in British Columbia (Love et al., 2005; Welcomme, 1988).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present||Introduced||1896||As: Salmo salar|
|French Southern Territories||Present||Introduced||1975||Kerguelen Islands; Establishment uncertain|
|India||Present||Introduced||Probably not established; Establishment uncertain|
|Indonesia||Present||Introduced||1929||As: Salmo salar|
|Turkey||Absent, Formerly present|
|Austria||Present||Introduced||1886||As: Salmo salar|
|Cyprus||Present||Introduced||for aquaculture; Not established|
|Czechia||Present, Few occurrences||Native||Reported extinct in wild in 2000 despite restocking, but further specimens have been found since then|
|Greece||Present||Introduced||1985||As: Salmo salar|
|Isle of Man||Present||Native|
|Switzerland||Present, Few occurrences||Native||Formerly common, later became extinct; reintroduction efforts and some farming|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||As: Salmo salar. First reported: 1864 - 1870|
|Atlantic - Northeast||Present||Native|
|Atlantic - Northwest||Present||Native|
|Atlantic - Southwest||Present||Introduced|
|Indian Ocean - Antarctic||Present||Introduced||1975||Establishment uncertain|
|Mediterranean and Black Sea||Present||Native|
|Pacific - Northeast||Present||Introduced|
|Pacific - Southeast||Present||Introduced|
|Pacific - Southwest||Present||Introduced|
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||1904||As: Salmo salar|
|Brazil||Present||Introduced||1957||As: Salmo salar|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||1905||As: Salmo salar|
|Falkland Islands||Present||Introduced||1960||As: Salmo salar|
IntroductionsTop of page
HabitatTop of page
The Atlantic salmon is an anadromous species, living in freshwater for at least the first 2 or 3 years of life before migrating to the sea. Relatively large cool rivers with extensive gravelly bottom headwaters are essential during its early life (Renzi, 1999). Smolts migrate to the sea where they may live for a number of years before returning to freshwater, but the movements of Atlantic salmon at sea are not well understood (Renzi, 1999). Tagging has shown that while some salmon wander, the great majority return to the river in which they were spawned. The species prefers cool temperatures (Bigelow et al., 1963).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Principal habitat|
|Marine||Pelagic zone (offshore)||Principal habitat|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The anadromous Atlantic salmon has a relatively complex and flexible life history that involves spawning and juvenile growth in rivers, and extensive feeding migrations at sea. As a result, Atlantic salmon go through several distinct phases that can be identified by specific changes in appearance, behaviour, physiology, and habitat requirements (Sedgwick, 1982; Jonsson and Jonsson, 2011). Several lake populations are landlocked.
In the natural environment, eggs hatch in March or April and the alevins (~ 2 cm) that emerge subsist off the attached yolk sac until reaching the fry stage, when they are ready to accept exogenous food. Fry remain buried in the gravel for about six weeks before emerging, and start feeding on plankton and small invertebrates. Emergent fry develop cryptic colouration appropriate to a riverine environment (predominantly greens, reds, yellows and browns) and camouflaging stripes along their sides, and enter what is termed the parr stage which typically lasts for 1-4 years. Parr habitat is normally riffle areas in streams characterized by adequate cover, shallow water depth, and moderate-to-fast water flow. In the spring of each year, driven by increasing daylength and increasing water temperatures, salmon parr undergo a physiological transformation called smoltification that prepares them for life in a marine habitat. Atlantic salmon smolts, approximately 15g in weight, leave rivers in the late spring and grow to adulthood in the North Atlantic basin where they remain for 1-5 years, before returning to their natal river to spawn in the early winter months. Genetically, populations are very river-specific in their attributes, which are adapted to the biotic and abiotic conditions found in a particular river. Body growth is rapid during the marine stage and the flesh becomes pink to orange due to carotenoid pigments derived from prey such as Euphausiid shrimp.
The rearing of captive Atlantic salmon for fish farming and stock enhancement programmes mimics the life history of wild S. salar and utilises both freshwater and sea water environments. Because of the efficiencies of farm husbandry practices, the farming process accelerates the life cycle to 1 year or less in freshwater (smolts typically 4-g to 120g), with harvesting after a further 16 to 20 months of growth in sea cages.
Natural Food SourcesTop of page
|Food Source||Food Source Datasheet||Life Stage||Contribution to Total Food Intake (%)||Details|
|nekton (bony fish)||Aquatic|Adult; Aquatic|Fry|
|nekton (squids/cuttlefish)||Aquatic|Adult; Aquatic|Fry|
|zoobenthos (finfish)||Aquatic|Adult; Aquatic|Fry|
|zoobenthos (insects)||Aquatic|Adult; Aquatic|Fry|
|zoobentos (benthic crustaceans)||Aquatic|Adult; Aquatic|Fry|
ClimateTop of page
|C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C|
|D - Continental/Microthermal climate||Tolerated||Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)|
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l)||<0.01||Optimum||Adult|
|Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l)||<0.0025||Optimum||Egg||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l)||<0.0025||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l)||<0.0025||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Carbon Dioxide (mg/l)||<10.0||Optimum||Egg||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Carbon Dioxide (mg/l)||<6.0||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Carbon Dioxide (mg/l)||<6.0||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||>5.0||Optimum||Adult|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||>5.0||Optimum||Broodstock|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||7.0||Optimum||Egg||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||7.0||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)||7.0||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Nitrate (mg/l)||<50.0||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Nitrate (mg/l)||<50.0||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Nitrite (mg/l)||<0.2||Optimum||Egg||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Nitrite (mg/l)||<0.2||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Nitrite (mg/l)||<0.2||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||33||34||Optimum||Adult|
|Spawning temperature (ºC temperature)||5||10||Optimum||Broodstock|
|Suspended solids (mg/l)||<25.0||Optimum||Egg||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Suspended solids (mg/l)||<25.0||Optimum||Larval||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Suspended solids (mg/l)||<25.0||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Water pH (pH)||6||9||Optimum||Adult|
|Water pH (pH)||5.5||8.0||Optimum||Egg||From RSPCA (2018b); refers to inlet water|
|Water pH (pH)||5.5||8.0||Optimum||Larval||From RSPCA (2018b); refers to inlet water|
|Water pH (pH)||5.5||8.0||Optimum||Fry||From RSPCA (2018b); refers to inlet water|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||1.0||12.0||Optimum||Larval||From RSPCA (2018b). Other information indicates that more than 22°C is harmful|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||1.0||14.0||Optimum||Fry||from RSPCA (2018b)|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||<12||16||Optimum||Adult||Less than -7 or more than 27°C is harmful|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||8||12||Optimum||Egg||RSPCA (2018b) indicates that acceptable range is 1.0 to 8.0°C|
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Atlantic salmon are susceptible to a number of diseases (bacterial and viral) and parasites (arthropods, helminths and protozoa), although disease-related mortality is primarily documented for hatcheries and aquaculture facilities. The monogenean freshwater ectoparasite Gyrodactylus salaris (commonly known as the salmon fluke) has been implicated in the reduction of Atlantic salmon populations in the Norwegian fjords, and the sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis and various Caligus species are major ectoparasites of farmed and wild Atlantic salmon. Bakke and Harris (1998) note that disease epizootics in wild salmon are not commonly reported; they consider that myxozoans, furunculosis, Gyrodactylus salaris, and sea lice are the pathogens most likely to threaten wild and managed salmon stocks in future. Spawning salmon in rivers and streams are susceptible to fungal (Saprolegnia spp.) infections. Despite abundant research on pathogens of farmed salmon, little is known of their impact on wild or managed stocks and an adequate theoretical framework for salmon disease epidemiology is needed to understand and manage the role of disease in salmon conservation (Bakke and Harris, 1998).
Wild and farmed salmon are predated upon by a variety of marine mammals and birds.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||Positive and negative|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Atlantic salmon farming has long been controversial and its effect on the environment and on wild fisheries (particularly salmonid fisheries) is questioned by many individuals and organizations (FAO, 2018). Taranger et al. (2015) offer a comprehensive risk assessment of the impact of farmed S. salar on the environment and on wild salmon populations.
The major areas of concern can be summarised as follows:
- Local nutrient pollution into water systems from waste feed/faeces.
- Local chemical pollution through use of chemical treatments.
- Effect on wild fish of escapees, through the spread of diseases, competition for food, space, and breeding partners, and genetic introgression.
- Transmission of ectoparasites (especially sea lice, which are species of copepod in the genera Lepeophtheirus and Caligus) from farmed fish to wild fish causing increased mortality in the latter, especially of migrating smolts.
- Issues of sustainability, since farmed salmon production relies on supplies of fishmeal and fish oil for feed production, and these are obtained from industrial fisheries.
Native salmon populations are typically genetically distinct from each other and potentially locally adapted. Farmed salmon represent a limited number of wild source populations that have had 12 generations or more of selective breeding and domestication (Hindar et al., 2006). Consequently, farmed and wild salmon differ in many traits including molecular-genetic polymorphisms, growth, morphology, life history, behaviour, physiology and gene transcription (Jonsson and Jonsson, 2006). Field experiments have demonstrated that the offspring of farmed salmon display lower lifetime fitness in the wild than wild salmon and that following introgression, there is a reduced production of genetically wild salmon and, potentially, reduced total salmon production. Introgressive hybridization was detected in half of about 150 Norwegian populations, with point estimates as high as 47%, and an unweighted average of 6.4% across 109 populations (Glover et al., 2017). The biological and ecological consequences, and the mechanisms driving population-specific impacts of introgression, remain poorly understood.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)
Human food and beverage
- Canned meat
- Cured meat
- Eggs (roe)
- Fish meal
- Fish oil
- Fresh meat
- Frozen meat
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
27/03/2018 Updated by:
Clive Talbot, consultant, UK
20/01/2010 Updated by:
Vicki Bonham, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, OX10 8DE, UK
Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK
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