Oregon State University

About Fish

To understand a few of the Marine Experiment Station's research goals, we'll oversimply and reduce fish to three types: freshwater, saltwater (marine), and diadromous.  

Freshwater species spend their life cycle in streams, rivers and lakes; saltwater (marine) fish, in the ocean. Although some marine species - herring and sardine, for example - may occasionally come into the estuaries (where fresh water from a river mixes with salt water from the ocean), they quickly return to the ocean.

Diadromous fish spend portions of their life cycle in salt and fresh water.  To do this, they must make critical physiological adjustments when moving between the two environments, so are dependent on healthy estuaries.  Diadromous fish include both anadromous and catadromous species.

Anadromous ("upward running") fish start their life cycle in freshwater rivers or streams, then migrate to the ocean, returning to their freshwater homes only when they're mature enough to spawn.  Anadromous fish include salmon (chum, pink, sockeye, Chinook, coho, cherry) and steelhead trout.

Catadromous ("downward running") species start their life cycles in saltwater (marine), but spend most of their adult lives in fresh water, and return to the sea to spawn (e.g, eels).

Our research focuses on marine and anadromous fish.  

Marine species we've studied include Pacific whiting (hake), a fish that caught by Oregon fishermen that had earlier been sold to foreign factory ships, which were able to process the whiting at sea.  When domestic fisher/processsors began competing in the harvesting and processing, Gil Sylvia and Michael Morrissey worked with the industry and state agencies toward creating a shore-based industry and the marketing of its products, which include surimi.   Michael expanded the Astoria Lab's surimi research capabilities when he hired Jae Park, who now holds annual Surimi Schools, both local and international. As for the Pacific whiting, it's now Oregon's largest fishery by tonnage, producing a variety of seafood products.

Oregon's Coastal Salmon Restoration Initiative spurred the hiring of several researchers dedicated to conserving our wild salmon stocks.   A joint project with OSU's Hermiston Experiment Station (Sandy DeBano and David Wooster, riparian and aquatic entomologists) brought Jessica Miller and Michael Banks to Newport.  While Sandy and David study stream health (the early-life and spawning environment of the salmon) Jessica concentrates on the ecology and life cycle.  Michael, along with Kathleen O'Malley, focuses on the genetic factors.  

When wild salmon stocks are scarce, the fishery can be closed for protection of the weaker species.  If these weaker stocks can be identified and avoided, fishermen can continue to fish.  Toward this goal, Project CROOS (Collaborative Research on Oregon Ocean Salmon) was created.  A cooperative effort, it pairs commercial fishermen with genetics researchers in developing digital tracing systems to track movement of various salmon stocks.

Regulation of fisheries is a complex balance in maintaining a healthy fish population, a healthy fishing industry, and adequate recreational opportunities.  Stock assessments provide necessary information for decisionmakers, who determine total allowable harvests for various species, and this information also affects the ability of fishermen to earn a livelihood. David Sampson, who has spent much of his time studying fishing strategy, has worked with industry and agencies toward improving stock assessments.  

A good source of information about salmon is the Oregon Salmon Commission website.

For albacore (tuna), please see the Oregon Albacore Commission website.

For information about local research on wild and hatchery fish, please see the Oregon Hatchery Research Center website.

For information about local fish species, please see the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife website.

For additional information on anadromous fish, please see the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission website.

The Pacific States Marine Fisheries website contains information on Pacific Northwest anadromous fishes.

For more fisheries statistics, see the NOAA website.


Images of fish

Contact Info

Copyright ©  2018 Oregon State University


2030 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, OR  97365
Tel:  541 867-0230
(at the Hatfield 
Marine Science Center)


2001 Marine Drive, Room 253
Astoria, OR  97103
503 325-4531
(at the Seafood Research 
& Education Center)