Early December is the usual time for migratory fish to be spawning on the Tamar system, with the sea trout normally starting a few days ahead of the salmon. This video shows both salmon and sea trout in a tributary river, many of the salmon have actually paired up and are lying together. Some fish exhibits spots of white fungus, often on their heads or fins, and while a little distressing to see, this is quite normal on fish whose bodies are virtually exhausted. All the nourishment laid down in their tissue, which has sustained the fish during their long fast in fresh water, has now gone to the eggs and milt. Their reserves are at an all-time low, and many of these fish will be dead only a few days after laying their eggs.
These fish are the few which have survived for three, four or five years to reach their natal spawning streams. A journey from a pea-sized egg buried in the gravels, two years as a small fish in the river, being preyed on by herons, cormorants, goosanders, not to mention trout, eels and other creatures, even insects such as dragonfly larvae. And then a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, with everything from bass and cod in the estuaries, to tope, sharks and who knows what other predators in the deeps. And this without mankind, whose nets and longlines await the fish in their Arctic feeding grounds.
The journey back from the ocean is no less fraught with danger, culminating with dolphins and seals in the inshore waters, and yet more men with nets, legal and otherwise, in the estuaries. Within the river, rod fishermen are now more aware than ever before of the problems faced by this iconic fish, with rods at the Arundell Arms now releasing all of the salmon we catch.
Which leaves these fish in the tributaries to fulfill their whole life's purpose. Note the large numbers of smaller brown trout, hugging the river-bed immediately downstream of the pairs of salmon. They too have to live, and a meal of salmon eggs, grabbed at the very moment of spawning, is a valuable source of nourishment for the trout in an otherwise frugal time of year.
As a Buddhist, would you return to this life as a salmon?