SCIENTIFIC NAME: Salmo salar
HABITAT: Free-flowing, gravel-bedded rivers that remain cool in summer
LIFE HISTORY: Juveniles spend up to three years in freshwater before heading to ocean. Averages three feet in length after three years at sea
THREATS: Loss of spawning habitat due to dams; water pollution; overfishing
FORMER RANGE: New Brunswick south to Connecticut
CURRENT POPULATION: Runs limited to eight rivers in Maine
Atlantic salmon are world travelers, spending much of their lives at sea, but returning to freshwater streams to spawn. These powerful fish have been known to leap up to 10 feet in the air to move past obstructions as they migrate upstream to the waters of their birth.
This salmon's breeding grounds once ranged from Connecticut's Housatonic River to New Brunswick, Canada, but now North American salmon runs are limited to just a few rivers in Maine. Hydropower dams were a major cause of the salmon's decline, and today, pollution, global warming and overfishing continue to threaten the survival of this iconic fish.
The Atlantic salmon was listed as an endangered species in 2000. Thanks to that listing, the federal government is mapping the distribution of remaining salmon populations and assisting local communities who are working to restore salmon habitat. To date, 385 river miles have been permanently protected due to these efforts.
Photos: Delaware River Gap © National Park Service; piping plover © Gene Nieminen, USFWS; swamp pink © Gene Nieminen, USFWS; Atlantic salmon © William W. Hartley, USFWS