Fish and Aquatic Conservation

illustration of a Chum_salmon

Chum salmon

Oncorhynchus keta, (Walbaum, 1792)

Cool Facts

A Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund was begun in 2000 by Congress to support the recovery of Pacific Salmon species.

SIZE: Chum salmon can weigh anywhere from 8-15 lbs. (3.6 to 6.8 kg} but can weigh up to 45 lbs. ( 20 kg). Total length for chum salmon can range up to 3.6 feet (1.1 m).

RANGE: The range for Chum salmon in the North Pacific includes Korea, Japan, Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, Artic Alaska and south to San Diego California in the United States. They are also found in Asia in Iran.

HABITAT: Chum salmon only exhibit one type of life history strategy and this is sea-run, and only inhabit fresh water during a short juvenile stage after hatching in their natal streams.

DIET: After hatching in their natal streams, juvenile chum salmon begin to feed on insects and other fresh water invertebrates. Upon migrating to estuarine and marine habitats, chum salmon will begin to feed on copepods, mollusks, tunicates and other fish.

Natural History

Chum salmon are an anadromous fish species that spend their adult lives in the ocean and migrate from their marine environment back to their fresh water natal streams to spawn or reproduce. Chum salmon are semelparous and spawn only once and then die. This salmon species is best known for the large canine spawning teeth exhibited by the males of the species on the spawning runs to their natal streams. They are second only in size to their Pacific salmon cousins, the chinook salmon.

During the ocean phase of their life history, chum salmon look remarkably similar to both coho salmon and sockeye salmon during this phase. But when chum salmon enter fresh water they undergo a dramatic morphological change and both sexes develop a pattern of bold red and black tiger stripes. Young chum salmon form schools while in freshwater and remain close to shore to help guard against predation.

Juvenile chum salmon, before migrating to the ocean exhibit a dark back and light belly coloration to prepare them for survival in the open water of the ocean. They seek deeper water and avoid light while their kidneys and gills undergo a transformation so that they can successfully inhabit the marine environment.


There are two Threatened Species population segments of chum salmon under the delineation of the Endangered Species Act. Historically, chum salmon have been the most abundant of all pacific salmon species. Seven of 17 historical spawning populations in the Hood Canal Summer-run are now extinct. The 2005 Chum salmon status report indicated an overall 6% decline in the Columbia River chum salmon populations. It is now believed that 14 out of 16 of the historical populations of chum salmon in Columbia River are now extinct.

A variety of conservation efforts to improve critical chum salmon habitat include captive rearing of chum salmon in hatcheries, dam removals and dam modifications, the restoration of degraded chum salmon habitat and improved water quality and stream flows in chum salmon habitat.

Migration Behavior

Chum salmon are a migratory species. Chum salmon are born in fresh water and then migrate to the ocean for their adult lives and return to fresh water to reproduce.