Atlantic Salmon

Scientific name: Salmo salar (Inner Bay of Fundy Population)
Mi’kmaq name:


The Atlantic salmon is dark on the back and silvery on the lower sides and belly. When spawning in fresh water both males and females become a bronze-purple colour, usually with reddish spots on the head and body. Young Atlantic salmon are called parr and have 8-11 pigmented bars along each side alternating with a row of red spots. Smolts lose these markings, become silvery and migrate to sea in the spring of their second year.


Found in freshwater rivers and streams that are clear, cool and well-oxygenated, with gravel, cobble, or boulder bottoms. They spend their first two to three years in the riffles, runs and pools, after which they travel to the sea. After one year in the Bay of Fundy, most return to spawn in the fall in the same areas where they hatched.

Atlantic Salmon are most abundant in fast moving, cool streams with abundant food sources such as aquatic insects and small fish.

Interesting Points

  • The name salar comes from the Latin salio which mean “to leap” – the Atlantic salmon can leap as high as 3.4 metres.
  • Over the last 20 years the Inner Bay of Fundy salmon population has declined by more than 95 per cent – only half of the rivers of the Inner Bay of Fundy still have salmon populations.
  • Inner Bay of Fundy salmon are genetically unique from other Atlantic salmon.

Threats to Survival

  • Acid rain and pollution.
  • Overfishing.
  • Habitat loss and degradation.
  • Lack of ripartian buffers (natural vegetation along waterways).
  • Water passage obstruction, from culverts, dams, aboiteaux, and lack of pools.

Courtesy of Species at Risk in Nova Scotia: Identification & Information Guide


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