Atlantic Salmon Conservation: Spawning Stages

Did you know that Fall is when kavisilik (Atlantic salmon) spawn?!

In the Fall, the kavisilik of NunatuKavut are finishing their swim home to the gravel beds where they were born. They are doing this to complete their life cycle in a process known as spawning

All artwork by Kristen Milbury, Aquatic Biologist, NCC
What is spawning?

Spawning is when female salmon deposit eggs onto the riverbed while male salmon release sperm, fertilizing the eggs. (note: spawning occurs with many types of aquatic organisms — other fish, frogs, shellfish, crustaceans, and many others!) Atlantic salmon like to deposit their eggs in a shallow nest dug into the gravel, called a redd. Fertilized eggs will spend the entire winter buried in these redds.


Atlantic salmon hatch in the early spring as alevins (or yolk-sac fry) and only emerge from the gravel as fry once they have depleted their yolk-sacs completely. After about a year, fry develop into parr with dark bars and red spots along their body. Parr live in the rivers for 3-4 years until they grow large enough and change into smolts. Smolts will travel to the sea where they will spend 1-3 years until they once again return home to the river to spawn as adults, completing their life-cycle!

It is important to protect Atlantic salmon during these early life-cycle stages so that they can continue to grow and reproduce, conserving the abundant and healthy salmon population in NunatuKavut!

Here are some ways that YOU can help protect kavisilik in your area:

1 – Keep the environment clean! Garbage and plastic pollution can be harmful to water and habitat quality for Atlantic salmon.

2 – Watch where you step! Be careful not to disturb areas of the stream where salmon redds may be present.

3 – Report barriers to salmon migration! Barriers such as fallen debris, beaver dams, dried up rivers or any other man-made or natural obstructions can limit salmon’s ability to migrate to spawning sites and back out to the ocean.

4 – Report contaminates* and pollution! Contaminates, increased sediment and other hazardous runoff can move into rivers and damage salmon habitat.

*Contaminants are substances or materials that are not usually found in the stream and are often harmful to the environment.

Report barriers, contaminates and pollution of salmon habitat by emailing

Below are drawings that NCC students submitted for a kavisilik conservation contest!