Two salmon researchers found something quite unexpected: second-generation hybrid Pacific salmon in the wild. The fish samples collected contained genetics from both coho and Chinook salmon, prompting the researchers to ask how the hybridization occurred.
The current hypothesis: drought and climate change.
According to one of the researchers, Andres Araujo, “For a hybrid to exist we need overlapping spawning grounds and timing.”
This has occurred over the past few years in the river system due to drought conditions that forced the two salmon species to spawn in overlapping areas.
CBCNews Canada reported that the first instance of a wild hybrid was brought to the attention of researchers by a member of the Cowichan Tribes during a tagging study being done in partnership between the First Nation and the province.
While hybrids are rare in salmon, this discovery certainly raises red flags about the conditions wild salmon are being forced to endure thanks to rapidly changing climate conditions in the Pacific Northwest.