Both odd- and even-year pink salmon populations were sampled during the spawning runs in Firsovka and Bakhura rivers on Sakhalin Island. Four collections of 30 fish spaced at 2-week intervals were taken from each river in 2 consecutive years. Four restriction endonucleases were used to examine 2·15% of the mitochondrial genome. Eighteen variable sites and three types of insertion defined 37 haplotypes among 449 fish. Heterogeneity tests showed highly significant differences among temporal collections taken in the odd year from Bakhura River, and no significant differences among temporal collections from the other three spawning runs. However, probabilities of homogeneity among temporal collections were low in all tests, and an integral estimate of the probability of homogeneity for the total set of tests was less than 0·001, indicating highly significant overall temporal heterogeneity. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), revealed that a small portion of the variance was distributed among temporal collections, and small φST values that differed significantly from zero only in the odd-year population in Bakhura River. Temporal differences in spawning are probably adapative, and allow greater productivity in areas of high spawning densities.