Western hemlock

Western hemlock thrives in humid areas of the Pacific coast. It is commonly found in temperate rain forests, usually within 100 miles of the coast.

Size

This large conifer can grow up to 200 feet tall and 9 feet in diameter. It is also long-lived, with the oldest known hemlock coming in at 1200 years!

In addition to being well known for its gorgeous wood, hemlock is used for a variety of other purposes. Western hemlock tolerates shade and grows abundantly underneath mature trees, where it provides an important source of food for deer and elk. Older trees are prone to rot, which makes them excellent sources of cavities for birds.

Native Americans on the Pacific coast carved hemlock wood into spoons, combs, roasting spits, and other implements. Hemlock bark is rich in a substance useful for tanning hides.

Foods

Hemlock is also a source of different kinds of food. In addition to offering edible canbium (the spongy cork interior of the bark), a hemlock forest is the preferred place for chanterelles and other edible fungi to grow. The needles can also be chewed or made into tea.

Dungeness crab have been commercially harvested on the West Coast for more than 150 years. Today this fishery is considered the most valuable single species commercial fishery in Oregon with an average value of $32.5 million .

The ocean crab season along the Oregon coast typically begins on December 1st and continues through August, although the majority of the harvest occurs during the first eight weeks of the season.

During the peak of the Dungeness crab harvest fresh crab is readily available at supermarket seafood counters and specialty seafood markets up and down the coast. Click here to find fresh crab near you!

You can also try your hand at harvesting Dungeness crab year round on the Oregon Coast. Crabbing requires minimal gear that is often available for rent in coastal towns and can be done from a boat or dockside. Try it today!

Don’t forget to check the current dates and fees for the South Coast’s Annual Charleston Crab Feed in February. You will be glad you did!

Chinook salmon

The Chinook salmon is an important keystone species for the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It is a vital food source for a diversity of wildlife, including orca whales, bears, seals, and large birds of prey.

Chinook salmon is prized by people who harvest salmon both commercially and for sport. Chinook are the largest Pacific salmon species.

Big guys

On average, these fish are 3 feet long and weigh approximately 30 pounds. Some individuals can grow to over 5 feet long and 110 pounds!

Chinook salmon live about three to seven years. Juvenile salmon stay in freshwater habitat for the first year or so, before moving to the estuaries and then the open ocean. Estuaries provide a lot of food and nutrients to the developing salmon.

Return to breed

The fish spend approximately two to four years feeding in the ocean before returning to the spawning grounds to breed and die.

Endangered

The Chinook Salmon is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. The Sacramento River winter-run population in California is classified as endangered wherever it is found.

Other naturally spawned populations in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are classified as threatened. Why the Chinook and other Pacific Northwest salmon have declined is no mystery.

4 H’s

The causes are known as “the four H’s”: harvest, habitat, hatcheries, and hydroelectric power.

Harvest refers to the overfishing by commercial fishing interests.

Habitat refers to degradation of a species home range, usually by pollutants. Another example would be increases in water sediments making a stream uninhabitable by the salmon or their eggs.

Captive-bred hatchery fish, released in the waterways used by native fish, compete and interbreed with the natives and weaken their stocks.

Hydroelectric dams have had perhaps the largest impact, blocking migration routes. Flood control and power generation were the original goals of these dams, rather than fish. As such, the dam construction changed the quality, quantity, rate of flow, temperature of the water, and species mix in rivers, lakes, and tributary streams.

Protection of Chinook salmon is crucial to maintain healthy Pacific Northwest ecosystems and to provide a delicious food source for years to come.