Chum salmon can be the best value on the market when the skin is bright and the meat deep red, according to some buyers. Since most chum salmon spawns near river mouths, they have lower oil content than sockeye, Chinook, or coho. Chum salmon has a mild taste, is low in sodium, and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B12, and selenium. Chum is graded 2-4, 4-6, 6-9, and 9 up and is readily available fresh and frozen, both H&G and fillets, but may also be canned or smoked. Like other kinds of salmon, chum quality differs greatly depending on the run. Buyers recommend learning about specific runs and their characteristics in order to identify the best salmon. The eggs are sold as ikura in Japan, where they have a high value. Buyer beware: Chum are some times sold as coho, a more expensive fish, because they are similar in size. Chum can be identified by a thinner caudal penduncle (the area just in front of the tail).
Based on average landings of chum salmon from 2012-2014 and using 2016 Seafood Watch ratings, the sustainability breakdown of North American chum salmon is as follows:
~88% "Best Choice (green)" - from Alaska
~7% "Good Alternative (yellow)" from Washington (more specifically Puget Sound)
~5% unrated from British Columbia (although this is Ocean Wise 'Recommended')
On a global scale over the same time period, Japan and Russia account for ~80% of chum salmon production.
Chum salmon experience a rapid growth rate during their first few months at sea and reach maturity at around four years old. Although chum salmon has low fecundity and its spawning behavior makes it vulnerable to net fishing pressure, this is partially offset by the production of large eggs that the fish buries. That strategy, and the upwellings in springs and channels where chum spawn, helps it remain resilient.
Chum salmon have wide distribution in the Pacific, and historically have been the most abundant of the salmon along the coast. While some chum salmon populations were once overfished, most stocks are currently considered healthy.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
Chums are caught with purse seine nets, gillnets, and troll gear, all of which rarely touches the seafloor so there is little lasting physical impact on the marine environment.
Lost net gear used to catch chum salmon can pose an entanglement risk to marine animals, but a 2016 Seafood Watch report noted incentives for fishermen to retrieve them and called the issue a very low concern. Chum bycatch is considered moderate overall, and mostly consists of other salmon species.
The Alaskan chum salmon fishery has extensive management measures in place that include scientific monitoring, gear restrictions, bycatch reduction measures, and a limited entry program to control capacity. In California, Washington, Oregon and Washington, substantial management measures are also in place. A Seafood Watch report from 2016 noted that significant progress had been made in managing salmon along the U.S. West Coast. Despite the complicated presence of endangered species, Seafood Watch considered management of most of these salmon fisheries to be careful and highly effective.