Viruses with the morphological and biochemical characteristics of the family Paramyxoviridae (paramyxoviruses) have been isolated from adult salmon returning to rivers along the Pacific coast of North America since 1982. These Pacific salmon paramyxoviruses (PSPV), which have mainly been isolated from Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, grow slowly in established fish cell lines and have not been associated with disease. Genetic analysis of a 505-base-pair region of the polymerase gene from 47 PsPV isolates produced 17 nucleotide sequence types that could be grouped into two major sublineages, designated A and B. The two independently co-circulating sublineages differed by 12.1-13.9% at the nucleotide level but by only 1.2% at the amino acid level. Isolates of PSPV from adult Pacific salmon returning to rivers from Alaska to California over a 25-year period showed little evidence of geographic or temporal grouping. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that these paramyxoviruses of Pacific salmon were most closely related to the Atlantic salmon paramyxovirus (ASPV) from Norway, having a maximum nucleotide diversity of 26.1 % and an amino acid diversity of 19.0%. When compared with homologous sequences of other paramyxoviruses, PSPV and ASPV were sufficiently distinct to suggest that they are not clearly members of any of the established genera in the family Paramyxoviridae. in the course of this study, a polymerase chain reaction assay was developed that can be used for confirmatory identification of PSPV. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.