Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon
Common Name Coho Salmon
Market Name silver salmon, white salmon
Scientific name Oncorhynchus kisutch

Sourcing Summary

Size

7-8 lbs.

Coho salmon has rich, reddish-orange meat and has been called one of the best tasting salmon. Although coho costs less than king and sockeye salmon, its quality is still quite high. Coho are a medium fatty salmon that have nearly two times the oil content of pink and chum salmon, but less than sockeyes or kings. Coho salmon are available primarily headed and gutted, in fillets both frozen and fresh in season from July to October. A limited amount of skinless, boneless coho salmon is sold. Coho is graded 2-4, 4-6, 6-9, and 9 up.

Like other kinds of salmon, coho salmon quality differs greatly depending on the run so buyers recommend learning about specific runs and their characteristics to identify the best salmon. Cohos caught by trolls and frozen at sea tend to have very high quality, although they have a higher price than coho salmon frozen on the shore, according to some buyers.

Based on average global landings of coho salmon from 2012-2015 and using 2016 Seafood Watch ratings and MSC certifications from 2013-2016, the sustainability breakdown of coho salmon is as follows:

  • ~40% is MSC-certified (from Alaska and ~2% of Russian landings)
  • ~5% meets a Seafood Watch "Good Alternative (yellow)" rating (~80% of U.S. West Coast and ~99% of British Columbia)
  • <1% meets a Seafood Watch "Avoid (red)" rating (from Columbia River and South Coast of British Columbia)
    ~55% is unrated (~98% of Russian landings)
  • Landings have increased ~15% in 2015 compared to 2012, but the years of 2013 and 2014 were about double the 2012 landings

Product Forms

Fresh/Frozen
Fresh
Product Forms
Fillet
H&G
Portions
Fresh/Frozen
Frozen
Product Forms
Fillet
H&G
Portions

Fresh Seasonal Availability

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
nonononononoyesyesyesyesnono

Culinary Composition

Mild

Flavor

Medium

Texture

Cooking Methods

Health/Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving Size: 114g
Amount per serving
Calories 179
Total Fat 10g
Cholesterol 50mg
Sodium 47mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Protein 20g
Omega-3 1.3g

Biology

Coho salmon are anadromous, meaning they hatch in freshwater and migrate to saltwater to feed and grow. Coho return to freshwater between the ages of three and four to spawn.

Female coho bury their eggs in dugout gravel nests called redds, and incubate them for six or seven weeks. The newly hatched coho salmon feed on plankton and insects. All adult coho die after spawning, and their carcasses provide a valuable source of energy and nutrients to the river ecosystem as a nitrogen and phosphorous source. This process also helps improve juvenile salmon growth and survival. Once the young mature, they migrate to the ocean and begin feeding on small fish. Coho salmon spend about 1.5 years in the ocean before returning to their natal streams or rivers in fall or early winter to spawn. 

Coho salmon are distinguishable from other salmon species by the lighter pigment of their lower jaw gumline, the small black spots found on their back and tail while in the ocean, and their blue-green back and silver sides. Spawning males develop a hooked snout and large teeth. All spawning coho develop a darker pigment with reddish-brown colors on their sides. Juveniles migrating back to the sea lose their camouflaging parr marks to the dark back and light belly coloration synonymous of ocean coho. Adult coho salmon weigh up to 12 pounds and are 24-30 inches in length.

Otters, seals, and various fish and birds prey on juvenile coho. Sharks, sea lions, and orcas feed on adult coho.

Species Habitat

Coho salmon are found along the Pacific coast of North America from southern California to Alaska – being most abundant from southeast Alaska to central Oregon. Coho salmon are anadromous and will hatch and spend the early part of their lives (between one to two years) growing and feeding in freshwater environments such as rivers, streams, and associated wetlands. As they mature, adults will migrate out to the ocean to further feed and grow. Some stocks will migrate more than 1000 miles out to sea during this time while others will remain closer to the streams and rivers of their birth. Coho generally spend about 1.5 years feeding in the ocean after which they will return to the freshwater environments of their birth to spawn in the fall and early winter months. Coho salmon have been introduced into all the Great Lakes and in many landlocked reservoirs throughout the United States.

Coho salmon are also found on the other side of the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Russia. In Russia, they most occur from the Anadyr River basin to Sakhalin. Coho are also farmed in net pens in Chile and Japan.

Science & Management

Wild
Science

The Auke Bay Laboratories’ Salmon Ocean Ecology and Bycatch Analysis (SOEBA) program studies the ecological process that drive the productivity of anadromous fish in the various ecosystems within the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Their research helps federal fishery decision-making in better sustaining fish populations, fisheries, and fishing communities in accordance with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center science plan and guidance memo. The program focuses on: marine ecology research, forecasting salmon and groundfish recruitment, and evaluating the impacts of commercial fisheries on salmon populations.

The lab’s Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMA) monitors changes in large marine ecosystems of the North Pacific, and informs on changes in marine salmon growth, health, and abundance in relation to adult salmon returns. Goals of the EMA include:

  • Developing physical and biological indicators of ecosystem processes and status to help predict future class strength of salmon and groundfish
  • Foster international efforts in marine research in the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Arctic Ocean
  • Participate in Yukon River Joint Technical Committee annual meetings to inform salmon managers and users on changes in ocean conditions and Yukon River salmon sizes, fitness, and abundance
  • Digitize the seasonal and annual marine growth on salmon 
Management

NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the coho salmon fishery in Alaska under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off the Coast of Alaska. Alaska accounts for the majority of US and global coho harvest and the fishery is of significant commercial and cultural importance. All management of salmon fisheries occurring in federal waters – including commercial, recreational, and subsistence – is deferred to the State of Alaska. This helps to ensure that management remains consistent throughout the state as well as through the salmon’s range.

There are more than 20 different coho stocks in Alaska. Alaskan salmon fisheries are well managed and according to a 2012 assessment – Alaskan coho populations are near or above target populations. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulates the salmon fisheries in Alaska by setting escapement goals. These goals are in place to ensure that enough salmon escape the fishery and are able to successfully return to freshwater and spawn – replenishing the population. Each year, managers and scientists conduct in-season assessments to determine the number of salmon returning to freshwater to spawn. Based on these returns, harvest limits are set, and scientist and managers will monitor and record both catch and escapements in real time. When abundance is high and the number of fish returning is much higher than needed to meet escapement goals, harvest levels are set higher. When abundance is low, and catch levels are exceeding escapement goals, harvest levels are set lower and the fishery may close earlier than expected.  

NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC) manage the coho salmon population along the US West Coast (Washington, Oregon, and California) under the Pacific Coast Salmon Plan. The PFMC reviews this plan annually by comparing the reports of the previous fishing season to the estimated abundance for the current year. Based on these reports a management plan is recommended by the PFMC for the upcoming fishing season – with final implementation to be carried out by NOAA Fisheries. State and tribal managers also use these recommendations to shape their own policies for inland fisheries. Specific management measures can vary by year depending on the seasons’ estimated abundance, but generally include:

  • Size limits
  • Establishing season length
  • Catch quotas 
  • Gear restrictions
     

The overall goal of these measures is to ensure that fishers can harvest the maximum amount of coho the fishery can support while preventing the overharvesting of the species and ensuring populations with low abundance can rebuild. The overall status of coho stocks in California, Oregon, and Washington varies. In 2013, many individual stocks were not considered overfished; however, the Central California Coast stock is listed as endangered, three stocks are considered threatened, and one is listed as a species of concern under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As such, management of coho salmon must additionally comply with measures outlined under the ESA. Captive rearing of salmon in hatcheries supports nearly all coho fisheries.

The Pacific Salmon Commission helps coordinate management and research of shared international coho stocks between the US and Canada. The Commission is comprised of a sixteen-person body with four commissioners and four alternates representing the interest of commercial and recreational fishers as well as federal, state, and tribal governments from each country. The body was originally formed by the US and Canadian government to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty. First ratified in 1985, the Pacific Salmon Treaty is a bilateral agreement that aims to prevent overfishing, provide optimal harvest, and ensure equal benefits of salmon production between the two countries. The US, along with Canada, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, is also a member of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission. The primary goal of the Commission is to provide a mechanism for international cooperation of coho and other salmon species in the northern Pacific Ocean. 

In addition to adhering to these commissions and treaties, coho salmon are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Canada under: the Southern Pacific Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) (covering waters south of Cape Caution, including the Fraser River watershed), the Northern Pacific Salmon IFMP (covering waters north of Cape Caution, including the Skeena River watershed) the Salmon Transboundary Rivers IFMP (covering the Alsek, Stikine, and Taku River watersheds), and the Wild Salmon Policy.

Harvest Methods

Conservation Criteria - Wild

Impact on Stock

Coho salmon stocks differ by location. In Alaska, their populations are healthy. The Pacific Northwest populations include some healthy ones, but Seafood Watch recommends avoiding wild Columbia River Coho stock because that salmon is currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. Coho in central California and Interior Fraser, British Columbia, are also listed as endangered. Several others along the U.S. West Coast have threatened status, according to Seafood Watch.

Habitat impacts (Wild)

Most Coho are caught by trollers and gill netters, with trollers accounting for about half the catch. A small amount is caught using purse seines. Trolling uses baited hooks and lines that don’t touch the seafloor. Gillnets and purse seines usually don’t have contact with the ocean floor either, so there is minimal impact.

Bycatch

Trolling results in low bycatch that’s primarily made up of non-targeted salmon species. The hooks enable bycatch to be released quickly with a high likelihood of survival. Bycatch of seabirds and porpoises can be high with the use of gillnets.

Management effectiveness

Alaskan salmon are extremely well managed with a number of conservation measures in place to protect species there, including a limited entry program and scientific monitoring. Canada’s Department of Fisheries has management measures in place to help strengthen Coho stocks, although abundance remains low in several areas. Similarly, federal efforts such as gear requirements, minimum size restrictions, quotas and seasonal limits apply to salmon fisheries in California, Washington and Oregon. 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.

Conservation Criteria - Farmed

Origin Method Ratings
All Other Origins All Other Fishing Methods  
All Other Origins All Other Farming Methods  
Canada Contained  
Canada - British Columbia (Area D) Drift Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia (Central Coast) Drift Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia (North Coast) Trolling Lines  
Canada - British Columbia (North Coast) Drift Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia (North Coast) Purse Seine - Unassociated  
Canada - British Columbia (South Coast) Purse Seine - Unassociated  
Canada - British Columbia (South Coast) Drift Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia (Transboundary RIvers) Drift Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia (West Coast of Vancouver Island) Trolling Lines  
Chile Marine Net Pen  
Russia - Kamchatka Peninsula Trap Net  
Russia - Kamchatka Peninsula Beach Seine  
USA Contained  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Purse Seine  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Troll  
USA - California Drift Gillnet  
USA - California Purse Seine  
USA - California Troll  
USA - Oregon Purse Seine  
USA - Oregon (Columbia River) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Oregon (North of Cape Falcon) Troll  
USA - Washington (Coastal Rivers) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington (Columbia River) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington (North of Cape Falcon) Troll  
USA - Washington (Puget Sound) Troll  
USA - Washington (Puget Sound) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington (Puget Sound) Purse Seine  
Worldwide RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems  
Name Country State / Province
A-1 Alaska Halibut / Kachemak Bay Seafoods United States Alaska
Alaska Peninsula Fisherman's Co-op United States Washington
Alaskan Salmon Company United States Alaska
Alaskans Own Seafood United States Alaska
Albion Farms & Fisheries Canada British Columbia
Allseas Fisheries Corp. Canada Ontario
American Fish & Seafood Company United States California
Anderson Seafoods Inc. United States California
Annette Island Packing Company United States Alaska
Aqua Star United States Washington
B&C Food Distributors Canada British Columbia
Barlean's Fishery, Inc. United States Washington
Blue North Inc. United States Washington
Blue North Trading Company, LLC. United States Washington
Blue Ribbon Meats United States Ohio
Blundell Seafoods Canada British Columbia
Bornstein Seafoods Inc. United States Oregon
Bristol Bay Salmon Company United States California
C2C Premium Seafood Canada British Columbia
Calkins & Burke Canada British Columbia
Canadian Fishing Company Canada British Columbia
Cape Greig, LLC. United States Washington
Catanese Classic Seafood United States Ohio
Caudle's Catch Seafood Canada Ontario
Centennial Foodservice Canada Alberta
Channel Fish Processing Company, Inc. United States Massachusetts
City Fish Canada Alberta
CleanFish United States California
Clipper Ship, Inc. United States Washington
Coal Point Seafood Company United States Alaska
Coastal Villages Seafoods, LLC United States Alaska
Codfathers Seafood Market Canada British Columbia
Coffee Point Seafoods of Washington, LLC United States Washington
Community Supported Fishery United States Oregon
E&E Foods, Inc. United States Washington
E.C. Phillips & Son, Inc. United States Alaska
Ed's Kasilof Seafoods United States Alaska
Euclid Fish Company United States Ohio
F/V Miss Mary Inc United States Washington
F/V Princess United States California
Fortune Fish & Gourmet United States Illinois
Grizzly Smokehouse Canada Quebec
Gulkana Seafoods-Direct United States Alaska
Halperns' Purveyors of Steak and Seafood United States Georgia
Icicle Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Icy Strait Seafoods, Inc United States Washington
IFC Seafood Inc. United States Maine
Ilwaco Landing LLC United States Washington
Imperial Seafood and Shellfish Inc. United States Ohio
Independence Fish Company United States Pennsylvania
J&B Sales Co, LLC United States Washington
J.J. McDonnell United States Maryland
John Nagle Co. United States Massachusetts
Kelly's Fresh Fish United States Washington
Kodiak Island WildSource United States Alaska
L&L International Inc. United States California
Lions Gate Fisheries, Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Lusamerica Foods, Inc. United States California
Lytle Seafoods United States Washington
Marinelli Shellfish Co. United States Washington
Mariner Neptune Canada Manitoba
Marx Foods United States Washington
Mikuni Wild Harvest United States Washington
Monterey Fish Market United States California
Nakeen Homepack, LLC. United States Alaska
Naknek Family Fisheries United States Alaska
North Coast Fisheries LLC United States California
Northeast Seafood Products, Inc. United States Colorado
Northern Divine Aquafarms Canada British Columbia
Northern Lakes Seafood & Meats United States Michigan
Northport Fisheries Inc. United States Washington
Northwest Fresh Seafood Company United States Oregon
Nova Fisheries / SunWave Processors United States Washington
Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC United States Washington
Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Organic Ocean Seafood Inc. Canada British Columbia
Pacific Harvest Seafood, Inc. United States Washington
Pacific Harvest Seafoods United States California
Pacific Seafood Group, Inc. United States Oregon
Pacific Star Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Palomino Foods, Inc. United States Washington
Pickled Willy's United States Alaska
Pike Place Fish Market United States Washington
Profish Ltd. United States District of Columbia
Queen Charlotte Seafoods Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Raw Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Salty Girl Seafood United States California
Sam Rust Seafood United States Virginia
Santa Monica Seafood, Inc. United States California
Sea Agra Seafood Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Sea to Table, USA United States New York
Seabright Seafood, LLC. United States Alaska
Seacore Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
Seafood Merchants Ltd. United States Illinois
Seafood Producers Cooperative United States Washington
Seattle Fish Company United States Colorado
Seattle Fish Company - Kansas City United States Missouri
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico United States New Mexico
Select Gourmet Foods Inc. United States Washington
Sitka Salmon Shares United States Illinois
Sizzlefish United States North Carolina
Slade Gorton & Co Inc. United States Massachusetts
Sleeping Giant Inc. United States Washington
SOGDA Limited, Inc. United States Washington
Stavis Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Stikine Seafoods United States Alaska
Tai Foong USA United States Washington
Taku Fisheries / Smokeries United States Alaska
Taku River Reds United States Alaska
The Fish Guys Inc. United States Minnesota
The Fishin' Company United States Pennsylvania
The Salmon Hookup United States Alaska
Tonka Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Tradex Foods Inc. Canada British Columbia
Triad Fisheries Ltd United States Washington
Trident Seafoods Corp. United States Washington
Vita Food Products United States Illinois
Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics United States Washington
West Creek Aquaculture Canada British Columbia
Wild Alaska Salmon and Seafood Company United States Alaska
Wild Fish Direct LLC United States Florida
Wild Fish Wives United States Washington
Wild Woman Fish Co. United States Colorado
Wildfish Cannery United States Alaska
Willowfield Enterprises Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Worldwide Seafoods (1997) Ltd. Canada British Columbia
ZF America United States Washington