Northward Migration of Pacific Salmon Signals A Rapidly Changing Arctic

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 18 March 2022

This study provides the first confirmed record of Pacific salmon populations surviving and reproducing in Arctic waters near Alaska. As global temperatures rise, an increasing number of species are able to migrate northward into the Arctic Ocean due to more favorable water temperatures and the influx of marine nutrients. Pacific salmon can swim through the Mackenzie River “migration corridor” along the western cost of Canada and enter the increasingly habitable Beaufort Sea neighboring Alaska. These salmon spend the cold winter months in warmer subarctic waters before returning to the Arctic during their reproductive and growing seasons. The increasing presence of Pacific salmon near the shoreline of the Beaufort Sea signals that the Arctic is experiencing rapid and unprecedented changes. This northward migration of Pacific salmon is concerning to many indigenous harvesters because it suggests a significant change in the biodiversity of Arctic waters. These findings underscore the importance of curbing global emissions to slow such rapid ecosystem shifts, and help communities across the Arctic better manage the challenges of a warming climate.