Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Days of our Lives: Oceanic Soap Opera

Days of our lives is an American soap opera that has aired on NBC almost every weekend for the past 47 years.  While I personally have never understood the whole soap opera phenomenon, it’s undeniable that millions of Americans tune in each weekend to watch the trials and tribulations of their favorite TV personalities. Living vicariously through these characters, what people may not know is that we have our own REAL LIFE soap opera right in our back yard. Full of excitement, danger and drama these critters deserve an Emmy nomination.

Before General Hospital and All My Children there was… the PACIFIC SALMON.

Carried away tail-first downstream and dumped into the ocean… this is the beginning of the salmons life. While some will stay within a few hundred miles of their natal stream, others will travel 2,500 miles away roaming the Pacific Ocean. Alas, this critter isn’t just an ordinary fish that lives and dies in the ocean… NOPE…these guys are best known for having the most extreme migration in the animal kingdom. They will spend the majority of their adolescent lives (which is anywhere from 6 months to 7 years depending on the species) exploring the vast open ocean, then it’s back to their birth grounds where some salmon have been observed traveling 45 miles a day  just to return to the rivers mouth. This is where the REEL excitement begins! THE SALMON RUN: a desperate, every fish for himself, race up stream against time. Once the battle begins Salmon will not stop to eat instead they derive their energy from fat reserves,  they will travel on average 275 miles upriver to reach their spawning grounds. Unfortunately, not all these persistent little guys will make it out to the love fest; some will be eaten by bears that patiently wait for them at the river’s edge, some will be caught by fishermen and some will starve to death. By the time those lucky few make it back home they are starved, exhausted, covered in scars and ready to relax?!?! But, the salmon, with bruises, torn fins and hooked jaws, will expend their last bit of energy in a mass spawn before they die. Females will lay anywhere from 2,500 to 7,000 eggs in hopes that some will survive to repeat this voyage. The salmon run, exemplifies one of the most beautiful and dramatic life cycles that nature has created… and…they are on the brink of extinction. Over harvesting, agricultural pollution, ocean warming, and habitat damage have all contributed to the devastating blow in their numbers. Keep this daytime drama airing and don’t let these guys get cancelled!
PBS did a wonderful documentary about the Salmon and thier collapsing populations
This is a short clip about the Salmon from BBC Natures Great Events: The Salmon run

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