Pink salmon is the smallest wild Pacific salmon and its flesh is pale pink. This salmon is mild-flavored, softer than most salmon, has a small flake and contains a relatively low amount of oil. Look for pink salmon with firm meat that has minimal scale loss and no vertical bars of watermarks that indicate the fish has neared fresh water. Pink salmon is graded 2-4, 4-6, 6-9, and 9 up. Pink salmon is mostly sold frozen or canned, and is increasingly sold in value-added products like salmon burgers and marinated steaks. A very small quantity is sold fresh, headed and gutted from July through August as is high quality whole pink salmon caught by trollers and frozen at sea. Processors who do both freezing and canning tend to only freeze the highest quality pink salmon so some buyers suggest purchasing from them. Buyers suggest learning about specific salmon species’ runs in order to find the best quality salmon since there are natural variations among them.
Based on average landings of pink salmon from 2011-2014 and using 2016 Seafood Watch ratings, the sustainability breakdown of North American pink salmon is as follows:
~95% "Best Choice (green)" - from Alaska
~2-3% "Good Alternative (yellow)" from Washington (more specifically Puget Sound)
~2-3% unrated from British Columbia (although this is Ocean Wise 'Recommended')
On a global scale over the same time period, the split between Russia and the United States & Canada pink salmon production is about 55%/45% respectively.
Pink salmon are relatively fast-growing, short-lived fish that reaches maturity at two years. Although this 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 helps the salmon stay resilient.
The abundance of pink salmon, which are found on both sides of the North Pacific, is very difficult to forecast since they have extremely variable mortality and spend so little time in the ocean, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Despite this, pink salmon populations are abundant in Alaska and at generally healthy levels further south. A Seafood Watch report from 2016 found that pink salmon abundance on the U.S. West Coast was a low concern.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
Pink salmon are mainly caught with purse seines and gillnets, which usually don’t touch the seafloor so the gear impacts on the ocean bottom are minimal. A small number of pink salmon are caught using beach seines or troll gear, but these methods cause little impact in Alaska.
Bycatch in the pink salmon fishery mainly consists of other fish species and there is incidental catch of marine mammals and some endangered seabirds. Overall bycatch is thought to be low, but very little quantitative information is available.
The salmon fisheries in Alaska have substantial management measures in place that include scientific monitoring, gear restrictions, bycatch reduction measures, and a limited entry program to control capacity. Since smaller pink salmon amounts are caught in Washington, abundance is scientifically monitored there to help set harvest limits. 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.