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Salmon in the Supermarket.
Occasionally you find salmon that is listed as wild sockeye salmon, wild
coho salmon, and wild chinook salmon. Prices less than $15.00 a pound would
normally be suggestive of something fishy, no pun intended.
However, there is a word in the industry that can OCCASIONALLY explain this
and that word is bycatch. From Wikipedia ... The term “bycatch” is usually
used for fish caught unintentionally in a fishery while intending to catch
other fish. It may however also indicate untargeted catch in other forms of
animal harvesting or collecting. Bycatch is of a different species,
undersized individuals of the target species, or juveniles of the target
species. However, Bycatch in most places is thrown back. The reasoning for
this is that some less than ethical fishermen / boats might target one fish
while claiming to be fishing for another in order to increase value. By forcing
the bycatch to be returned they are preventing targeting species that are
vulnerable to over fishing though waste is the end product. This occurs mostly
due to international agreements. Salmon being one of the most regulated fish on
the planet due to its wandering nature and international travels.
|In cases where BYCATCH is utilized it can be undersized fish that while valuable are
worth much less per pound being undersized. In order not to waste fish, and
to prevent waste the industry will sell this fish at a rate much less than
the normal price for that species.
I will use Salmon as an example since I am most familiar with salmon. (Salmon
Bycatch according to the Alaska Dept. Of Fish and Wildlife has to be
thrown back, so Salmon Bycatch is NOT a reason for small salmon
Normally wild salmon is caught at the end of the fish's life. It is netted
at the mouths of rivers when the fish are coming back to the river to spawn.
Normal sizes for these salmon can vary, but normally run in a specific range
Chinook or King Salmon - West coast of the Pacific Oregon, Washington,
California, and British Columbia .. fish are 3, 4 and 5 year fish and
normally weigh around 25 to 45 pounds.
MOST rivers in Alaska have fish the same size with 2 exceptions. The Kenai
River and the Kasilof Rivers will have fish that are 4, 5, 6, and 7 years
old that have returned to spawn. These are the only waters where salmon
exceed the 60 pound mark. Fish have been caught in the ocean that are in the
130 pound range but it is believed those fish are Kenai River fish. Why
these 2 rivers have such large fish is unknown.Sockeye salmon are filter feeders and return at 3, and 4 years in most
rivers. The average size is right around 8 pounds with the smaller fish
running 4 to 5 and the largest ever caught being 17 pounds approximately.
Coho Salmon are 3, 4 and 5 year fish and they return and weigh on average 10
to 25 pounds maximum.
The valuable species of salmon will have silvery sides, with dark blue,
green or even blackish backs. Once a salmon has reached fresh water and
starts to turn color the meat is less and less valuable. Once there is red
in the skin, the fish should be smoked or prepared quickly if cooked. Bright
red is normally too late in the fish life to be eating it. At this point the
meat is being digested by the body in order to sustain the fish through
spawning. Thus if a trawler is fishing for another species and catches what I will
call immature salmon that are 2 or 3 years old and undersized, those fish
are worth less per pound. Red Salmon out of Kachemak Bay in Alaska sell at
the source at around 1.85 to 2.35 per pound depending on the size of the
When you figure that 50% of that fish is head, guts, backbone etc. the real
cost per pound is around $3.60 to $4.70 right off the boat. Figure in
processing, freezing, icing, shipping etc. and you are going to end up at
around $15.00 a pound minimum.
However if a trawler catches a bunch of 4 pound sockeye or say 1 pound pink
salmon then the value of the fish goes down. You only get 1/2 the weight of
meat and processing and other costs remain the same... thus immature
fish that are small
are sold at lesser prices and this explains Salmon at $8.99 a pound as well
as other fish. IF this is what is happening. Red Salmon are very seldom
caught in the open ocean.
Some common Salmon Scams...
Pink Salmon and Chum Salmon are considered poor quality salmon species.
Their commercial value is very low. Pink salmon sell for as little as
.10 cents per pound. There are actually laws against trawlers that catch
pink salmon throwing it back in dead. It can cost a trawler more in fuel
than a full load of Pinks will pay. This can cause some serious pressure
on boats to sell this fish in some form to make money. They can be dyed
to look like Sockeye, but normally taste of the fish is a big clue.
Pink salmon is actually a pink to red meat fish. One of the scams I have
heard of is people buying the fish, processing it and hauling it via
reefer to the west coast and selling Wild Alaska Salmon for $5.99 to
$8.99 a pound. IT IS wild Alaska or Pacific Salmon but low quality. Real
value is questionable. I do not think this happens in stores.
Fillet from a Big Box Store.. Approx 3/8 inch thick
Wild Salmon Fillet Folded in half, the fillet is much thicker.
Approximately 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch thick
Big Box Grocery Store salmon - Color is paler than wild caught salmon
from the Kenai River.
Wild Salmon caught during a legal season normally will be 3/4 to 1 inch
thick. Color is bright red. Skin side will be a silvery and white color
with a bit of dark grey along one side.
The big deal about salmon is the Omega 3 oils that are in the fish that help
Sockeye salmon have the largest concentrations of the oil. That is due to
the fact that they are filter feeders. They only feed on plankton and krill.
Chinook, and Silver Salmon feed heavily on herring. Herring are high in
Omega 3 oils and that is why Chinook and Silvers also are considered a top
food. However they do not have as much Omega 3 in their meat as the Sockeye.
Chum salmon eat zooplankton and insects as juveniles. Recent studies show
that they also eat comb jellies. As adults, they eat smaller fish. Their
value is the lowest of the 5 Eastern Pacific species. I am not aware of any
scams that involve Chum Salmon as they are very identifiable by their skin
Salmon Buying Tips
1. Red Salmon IS Red.
Normally a bright fire engine red. Cheaper wild salmon may be
immature salmon, but you should be wary of any SOCKEYE that is
not a bright red.
2. Look at the size of the
fillet. If it is less than 1/2 inch thick it is from the tail
section or from an immature fish. The tail section has no bones to
speak of while, full age salmon have pin bones in them in a row that
is approximately one inch from the top of the back.
3. King Salmon will have an
orange color, and Coho or Silver salmon will be a pinkish orange.
Again look at the size of the fillet and the thickness. Wild
salmon is naturally colored. Farmed Salmon is white but dyed to
match its wild cousins.
4. If you are buying "Wild
Alaska or Pacific Salmon" ask what kind of salmon it is. King /
Chinook, Sockeye / Red, and Coho / Silver are the most
valuable. Pink Salmon and Chum salmon are not nearly as good eating
or for you as the others, yet they are Wild Pacific Salmon.