Peter Gray

Understanding the Life Cycle of Wild Atlantic Salmon

The Egg Stage


The Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish that typically spends 2-3 years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean as a silvery smolt. After an additional 1-3 years at sea it returns to its natal river to spawn. Fertilized eggs hatch in nests called redds in March or April.

The Alevin Stage


The period after hatching from the egg, the salmon is referred to as an alevin and it remains entirely dependent upon the yolk sac for nutrition. Alevin remain buried in the gravel redds until transitioning to the next phase of development.

Peter Gray
Peter Gray

The Fry Stage


As the alevins transition to fry, they remain buried in the gravel redds for approximately six weeks. They emerge from the gravel about mid-May and feed on plankton and small invertebrates. Emergent fry quickly disperse from the nests within the gravel.

The Parr Stage


Next, the fry develop camouflaging stripes along their sides and then enter the parr stage. Parr habitat is typically shallow riffle areas with adequate cover, and moderate-to-fast water flow. Salmon parr spend 1-3 years in freshwater and then undergo a physiological transformation called smoltification that prepares them for life in a marine habitat.

Peter Gray
Peter Gray

The Smolt Stage


During the process called smoltification, the camouflage used by fish to blend in with the stream disappears. It is replaced with silvery sides to make the fish more suitable to life at sea. Gills change to make fish ready for saltwater and they begin to swim with the current as opposed to against it. Ultimately all fish meet the ocean where they begin feeding on plankton. Big fish eat little fish, and in time smolt feed on larger fish such as herring and alewives among others.

The Adult Stage


Atlantic salmon leave Maine rivers in the spring and reach Newfoundland and Labrador by mid-summer. They spend their first winter at sea, west of Greenland. At sea, salmon feed on a variety of foods which range from squid, sand eels, shrimp and herring. A small percentage of adult salmon return to Maine after one year while the majority spend a second year at sea. One year at sea fish are known as grilse, while two year at sea fish are known as multi-sea winter salmon. Some Maine salmon are also found in waters along the Labrador coast. Upon return to their native river, females use their tails and the current of the river to create a redd which is a spawning nest. The female lays her eggs while the male fertilizes them with milt. Pacific salmon die after spawning while Atlantic salmon head back to sea. They can return to their natal rivers and spawn multiple times.

Peter Gray
Peter Gray

Our Last Best Chance to Avoid Extinction of Wild Atlantic Salmon in the US


Maine’s wild Atlantic salmon populations have consistently declined since the mid-1800’s due to a variety of factors. Since 2000, they have been on the Endangered Species List. The Peter Gray Parr Project is focused on the successful reintroduction of salmon parr to the East Machias River. The project is part of a larger organization known as the Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF). DSF works on a wide variety of projects all of which are related to wild Atlantic salmon restoration. Dam removals, creation of fish passages, full and partial river restorations, improvements to water quality, conservation education and research are among their many areas of focus. Thanks to their decades of work on the East Machias River, the groundwork has been laid for the Peter Gray Parr Project to reintroduce parr into the river using industry unique methods established by legendary British fisheries biologist Peter Gray.


READ THE PETER GRAY STORY

LEARN ABOUT THE PETER GRAY PARR PROJECT

Peter Gray

Understanding The Life Cycle of Wild Atlantic Salmon

The Egg Stage


The Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish that typically spends 2-3 years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean as a silvery smolt. After an additional 1-3 years at sea it returns to its natal river to spawn. Fertilized eggs hatch in nests called redds in March or April.

Peter Gray

The Alevin Stage


The period after hatching from the egg, the salmon is referred to as an alevin and it remains entirely dependent upon the yolk sac for nutrition. Alevin remain buried in the gravel redds until transitioning to the next phase of development.

Peter Gray

The Fry Stage


As the alevins transition to fry, they remain buried in the gravel redds for approximately six weeks. They emerge from the gravel about mid-May and feed on plankton and small invertebrates. Emergent fry quickly disperse from the nests within the gravel.

Peter Gray

The Parr Stage


Next, the fry develop camouflaging stripes along their sides and then enter the parr stage. Parr habitat is typically shallow riffle areas with adequate cover, and moderate-to-fast water flow. Salmon parr spend 1-3 years in freshwater and then undergo a physiological transformation called smoltification that prepares them for life in a marine habitat.

Peter Gray

The Smolt Stage


During the process called smoltification, the camouflage used by fish to blend in with the stream disappears. It is replaced with silvery sides to make the fish more suitable to life at sea. Gills change to make fish ready for saltwater and they begin to swim with the current as opposed to against it. Ultimately all fish meet the ocean where they begin feeding on plankton. Big fish eat little fish, and in time smolt feed on larger fish such as herring and alewives among others.

Peter Gray

The Adult Stage


Atlantic salmon leave Maine rivers in the spring and reach Newfoundland and Labrador by mid-summer. They spend their first winter at sea, west of Greenland. At sea, salmon feed on a variety of foods which range from squid, sand eels, shrimp and herring. A small percentage of adult salmon return to Maine after one year while the majority spend a second year at sea. One year at sea fish are known as grilse, while two year at sea fish are known as multi-sea winter salmon. Some Maine salmon are also found in waters along the Labrador coast. Upon return to their native river, females use their tails and the current of the river to create a redd which is a spawning nest. The female lays her eggs while the male fertilizes them with milt. Pacific salmon die after spawning while Atlantic salmon head back to sea. They can return to their natal rivers and spawn multiple times.

Peter Gray

Our Last Best Chance to Avoid Extinction of Wild Atlantic Salmon in the US


Maine’s wild Atlantic salmon populations have consistently declined since the mid-1800’s due to a variety of factors. Since 2000, they have been on the Endangered Species List. The Peter Gray Parr Project is focused on the successful reintroduction of salmon parr to the East Machias River. The project is part of a larger organization known as the Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF). DSF works on a wide variety of projects all of which are related to wild Atlantic salmon restoration. Dam removals, creation of fish passages, full and partial river restorations, improvements to water quality, conservation education and research are among their many areas of focus. Thanks to their decades of work on the East Machias River, the groundwork has been laid for the Peter Gray Parr Project to reintroduce parr into the river using industry unique methods established by legendary British fisheries biologist Peter Gray.


READ THE PETER GRAY STORY

LEARN ABOUT THE PETER GRAY PARR PROJECT

Help us Restore Maine's Wild Atlantic Salmon Population


$1 per parr. Restore one or restore thousands. All donations will make a difference!

The goal of the Peter Gray Parr Project is to increase the number of parr raised and stocked to over 2,000,000. At an estimated cost of just over $1 per parr, we must raise 2.2 million dollars to support this restoration. For every dollar donated, contributors will quite literally be putting more parr in the East Machias River and directly impacting the restoration of Maine's wild Atlantic salmon population.

PETER GRAY PARR PROJECT GOAL


Restore over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr to the East Machias River.

DONATE TODAY

GOAL TRACKER


Financial progress towards restoring over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr into the East Machias River

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