Beer: The Secret Ingredient to Help Salmon Find Their Way Home


Scientists in Oregon are looking at a unique way to bring salmon back home, the smell of beer. 

Biologists already know that salmon return to where they were born to spawn. It’s ingrained in their minds that the creek or river they came from was a safe place. Scientists believe the fish use their sense of smell to find their way back when it comes time to reproduce. However, this is proving tricky for fish from hatcheries.

According to Hakai Magazine, a coastal science-focused publication, salmon born in hatcheries are often released in unfamiliar streams or set loose before they’re old enough to imprint, making it tricky to find their way back. Scientists are working to find a solution by helping the fish smell their way back so they too can spawn.

The Brewery Solution

The Oregon Hatchery Research Center believes they have found a unique-enough smell, a pale ale. After multiple tests with different substances and successes with amino acids, researchers turned to beer. The organization is now working with Rogue Ales to use their beer, especially the settled and leftover liquid from brewing.

Beer is being introduced into the hatcheries so salmon can associate the smell with their birthplace. After release, the strong smell will hopefully help guide them home when it’s time for them to spawn. The Oregonian reports that it took some trial and error, but they’re trusting that the fish’s instincts will kick in and get the fish on the right track.

It’ll be some time before the crew at the research center knows for sure that their plan is working. Some fish did return this year to the hatchery, but it will take more data and analysis before researchers know for sure that their successful return was thanks to the beer. 

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