Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon
Common Name Sockeye Salmon
Market Name red salmon, blueback, redfish
Scientific name Oncorhynchus nerka

Sourcing Summary

Size

6 lbs.

Sockeye has the reddest flesh of any salmon species, and its rich meaty flesh has a high oil content. Sockeye is graded 2-4, 4-6, 6-9, and 9 up. This salmon is marketed fresh, frozen, salted, canned. Generally the further sockeye are caught from their natal river, the higher the quality. There will be major quality differences because of natural variability more so than how fishermen and processors handle the product. Sockeye caught off Central Alaska’s Copper River and Canada's Fraser River tend to be larger and contain more oil than other sockeye runs. The number of sockeye available seasonally varies, and quality can also vary within the same run.

Based on average landings of sockeye salmon from 2012-2014 and using the most recent 2011 and 2016 Seafood Watch ratings and 2013-2017 MSC certifications, the sustainability breakdown of sockeye salmon is as follows:

  • ~85% of global sockeye salmon is MSC-certified (100% of Alaska and Canada, and ~40% of Russia landings)
  • ~<1% of global sockeye salmon meet a Seafood Watch"Good Alternative (yellow)" from U.S. West Coast (nearly all from Puget Sound, Washington)
  • ~30% of global sockeye salmon is unrated (Russia and Japan)
  • Global landings of sockeye salmon increased ~25% from 2012-2015
  • Landings in 2014 were atypical from preceding and subsequent years with a marked increase in landings from Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington state
  • In May 2017, the Prince William Sound salmon fisheries were added to the MSC certificate for Alaska salmon, making all salmon fisheries in the state of Alaska certified


Product Forms

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

Fresh Seasonal Availability

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
nonononoyesyesyesyesyesnonono

Culinary Composition

Mild

Flavor

Medium

Texture

Cooking Methods

Health/Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving Size: 100g
Amount per serving
Calories 168
Total Fat 9g
Cholesterol 62mg
Sodium 47mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Protein 21g
Omega-3 1.2g

Biology

Sockeye salmon are amongst the smaller species of Pacific salmon, growing between 1.5 and 2.5 feet in length and four to fifteen pounds, and maturing around five years. Most salmon are anadromous, meaning they hatch in freshwater streams and rivers then migrate to the ocean to feed and grow. As sockeye salmon return to their freshwater spawning ground, their heads turn green, and their bodies a bright red, giving them their common name of “red salmon.” Sockeye are the only salmon species that display different spawning colors on the body and head. Typically, populations return after two to three years at sea, with some returning earlier and others later. Populations that return earlier are almost always male, called “jacks.” Spawning males develop hooked jaws with visible teeth and a humped back.

Spawning season for sockeye salmon occurs in the summer or fall. Females select the spawning site and dig nests, known as redds, with their tails where they deposit the eggs. Males swim over the redds to fertilize the eggs. Newly hatched salmon, known as alevins, remain in the gravel until early spring, when they then emerge as fry and migrate to the ocean after one to three years. All adult sockeye salmon die within a few weeks after spawning.

The alevins feed off the material stored in their yolk sacs until they emerge, where they then feed mainly on zooplankton, amphipods, and insects. Adult sockeye salmon living in the ocean feed on zooplankton, larval and small adult fish, and squid. Fish and birds feed on juvenile salmon. Sharks, lampreys, and marine mammals feed on adult salmon. Bears, eagles, and wolves feed on freshwater salmon.

Species Habitat

In North America, sockeye salmon range from the Deschutes River in Oregon to northwest Alaska. The majority of sockeye salmon are anadromous, but some, known as “kokanee,” are non-anadromous and will spend their entire lives in freshwater. Sockeye salmon spawn in streams, rivers, and near lakeshores along North America. Juveniles will typically stay in these freshwater nursery grounds for the first one or two years of their lives. As they grow and mature, anadromous sockeye will migrate to the ocean to further grow and feed – generally for two or three years. During spawning season, adult salmon will leave the ocean and will return to freshwater. Spawning sockeye will migrate thousands of miles upstream to spawn – usually returning to the same river or stream of their own birth. In Russia, they occur from the Anadyr River area of Siberia to the Kuril Islands. Sockeye salmon are also found in northern Japan. 

Science & Management

Wild
Science

NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCDRF), established in the year 2000, aids in the reversal of declining Pacific salmon and steelhead populations and contributes to their recovery by blending science, communities, and local economies to ensure that they are effectively and efficiently benefiting salmon populations. The increase in jobs and support has led to habitat restoration and protections projects resulting in significant changes in salmon habitat conditions and availability, as well as the re-establishment of previously inaccessible streams.

Furthermore, studies done by NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Centre conduct research to better understand the relationship between ecological processes and the productivity of anadromous fish. The end goal is to organize and communicate their findings and provide guidance for decision-making. Their Auke Bay Laboratories’ (ABL) Salmon Ocean Ecology and Bycatch Analysis (SOEBA) program aids state and federal fishery managers in making informed decisions to help sustain populations, fisheries, and communities. The main focus of the lab is 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, Yukon River salmon sizes/fitness/abundance
  • Digitize the seasonal and annual marine growth on salmon scales and stock recruitments, including bycatch
Management

NOAA Fisheries, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game manage sockeye salmon in Alaska under the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Fisheries in the EEZ Off Alaska. To allow for consistent management throughout the state, management of all salmon fisheries in federal waters is deferred to the State of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 

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.  There are hundreds of different sockeye stocks in Alaska with some stocks being in decline and others remaining steady or increasing. Efforts to further conserve the population include:

  • Captive-rearing in hatcheries
  • Removal and/or modification of dams
  • Restoration and acquisition of key habitat
     

The Pacific Salmon Commission helps coordinate management and research of shared international sockeye stocks between the US (Alaska, Washington, and Oregon) 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 sockeye and other salmon species in the northern Pacific Ocean.

Sockeye salmon are rarely caught in the federally managed waters off the US West Coast that fall under the jurisdiction of the Pacific Fishery Management Council. However, there are sockeye fisheries in the Columbia River (Washington and Oregon), Fraser River (Washington), Puget Sound (Washington) as well as in smaller, coastal rivers throughout Washington. These fisheries are primarily managed through state agencies and tribal governments as well as the Pacific Salmon Commission. Captive rearing of salmon in hatcheries supports nearly all fisheries on the US West Coast. 

Harvest Methods

Conservation Criteria - Wild

Impact on Stock

Most sockeye salmon spawn near lakes and exhibit a wide variety of life history patterns. Their low fecundity is countered by a large production of eggs that get buried, making them fairly resistant to natural and fishing pressures. Sockeye stocks are healthy in Alaska, but the populations in California, the Canadian Pacific, Oregon, and Washington have experienced declines over the past 50 years due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, introduced species, overfishing and dam construction. 

Sockeye in Lake Ozette, Washington, are listed as threatened and Snake River sockeye are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The reefnet fishery around Lummi Island and San Juan Island in Washington divides salmon into four managed groups with different run-times. Early summer and summer sockeye there have the lowest conservation concern while late-run has the highest because the Cultus Lake sockeye is endangered in Canada, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Habitat impacts ( Wild)

Sockeye are usually caught with gillnets and purse seines, which rarely touch the seafloor so there is little lasting physical impact on these habitats. A taper built into one end of a purse seine ensures that the gear won’t drag along the seafloor. Trolling for salmon also results in little damage. The Monterey Bay Aquarium reported that the conservation concern in the reefnet fishery in Washington is very low.

Bycatch

Salmon fishing tends to be highly selective due to management measures and the methods used, resulting in low bycatch rates overall, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Bycatch of non-salmonids is minimal in the reefnet fishery as well. A small number of sockeye salmon are accidentally caught in the pollock fishery. Endangered or threatened salmon species may end up as bycatch in mixed-stock fisheries. This remains a concern in California, the Pacific Northwest and the southeast Alaska troll fisheries.

Management effectiveness

Sockeye salmon in Alaska are well managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to about their maximum sustainable yield, according to Seafood Watch. Management measures include limits on gear, area restrictions, and limits specific to salmon species. Seafood Watch reported that management in the reefnet fishery is effective and gave it a green rating. Strict and effective management measures are in place for sockeye in Washington, Oregon and California. 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, management of most of these salmon fisheries is considered to be careful and highly effective.

Conservation Criteria - Farmed

Origin Method Ratings
All Other Origins All Other Fishing Methods  
Canada - British Columbia Gillnet  
Canada - British Columbia Purse Seine  
Canada - British Columbia Troll  
Russia - Ozernaya River Purse Seine  
Russia - Ozernaya River Gillnet  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Purse Seine  
USA - Alaska (MSC) Troll  
USA - California Gillnet  
USA - California Purse Seine  
USA - California Troll  
USA - Oregon Purse Seine  
USA - Oregon Troll  
USA - Oregon (Columbia River) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington Troll  
USA - Washington (Coastal Rivers) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington (Columbia River) Drift Gillnet  
USA - Washington (Fraser River Early Summer Run) Reefnet  
USA - Washington (Fraser River Late Summer Run) Reefnet  
USA - Washington (Fraser River Summer Run) Reefnet  
USA - Washington (Puget Sound) Purse Seine  
USA - Washington (Puget Sound) Drift Gillnet  
Worldwide All Other Farming Methods  
Worldwide RAS - recirculating aquaculture systems  
Name Country State / Province
7 Seas Fish Co., Ltd. Canada British Columbia
A-1 Alaska Halibut / Kachemak Bay Seafoods United States Alaska
Alaska Peninsula Fisherman's Co-op United States Washington
Alaskan Premium Seafoods, LLC. United States Michigan
Alaskan Salmon Company United States Alaska
Albion Farms & Fisheries Canada British Columbia
Aleutia United States Alaska
Allseas Fisheries Corp. Canada Ontario
American Fish & Seafood Company United States California
Anderson Seafoods Inc. United States California
Aqua Star United States Washington
Aqualine Seafoods Ltd. Canada British Columbia
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
C&C Seafood Market United States Florida
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
Cold Country Salmon United States Virginia
Deep Sea Fisheries, Inc United States Washington
DOM International Limited Canada Ontario
E&E Foods, LLC. United States Washington
E.C. Phillips & Son, Inc. United States Alaska
Ed's Kasilof Seafoods United States Alaska
Empire Fish Company United States Wisconsin
F/V Miss Mary Inc United States Washington
Flurer Smokery Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Fortune Fish & Gourmet United States Illinois
French Creek Seafood Ltd. Canada British Columbia
FreshCatch United States California
Gulkana Seafoods-Direct United States Alaska
Halperns' Purveyors of Steak and Seafood United States Georgia
Henry & Lisa's Natural Seafood / EcoFish, Inc. United States New Hampshire
Icicle Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Icy Strait Seafoods, Inc United States Washington
Ilwaco Landing LLC United States Washington
Imperial Seafood and Shellfish Inc. United States Ohio
J&B Sales Co, LLC United States Washington
J.J. McDonnell United States Maryland
John Nagle Co. United States Massachusetts
Kenai Red Fish Company United States Oregon
Keyport LLC United States Washington
Kodiak Island WildSource United States Alaska
L&L International Inc. United States California
Lions Gate Fisheries, Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Lummi Island Wild United States Washington
Lusamerica Foods, Inc. United States California
Lytle Seafoods United States Washington
Marinelli Shellfish Co. United States Washington
Mariner Neptune Canada Manitoba
Marinex SA Switzerland
Marx Foods United States Washington
Maximum Seafood Canada Ontario
Mikuni Wild Harvest United States Washington
Nakeen Homepack, LLC. United States Alaska
Naknek Family Fisheries United States Alaska
Northeast Seafood Products, Inc. United States Colorado
Northern Lakes Seafood & Meats United States Michigan
Northern Products Corporation United States Washington
Northport Fisheries Inc. United States Washington
Northwest Fresh Seafood Company United States Oregon
Norton Sound Enterprises United States Washington
Nova Fisheries/SunWave Processors United States Washington
Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC United States Washington
Okanagan Select Canada British Columbia
Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Oregon Seafoods United States Oregon
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
Precious Cargo Seafood Company United States Oregon
Pride of Bristol Bay United States Idaho
Profish Ltd. United States District of Columbia
Raincoast Trading Canada British Columbia
Raw Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Red River Seafood Company LLC United States Florida
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
Seacore Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
Seafood Merchants Ltd. United States Illinois
Seaforth Fish Company United States California
Seattle Fish Company United States Colorado
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico United States New Mexico
Select Gourmet Foods Inc. United States Washington
SHS, LLC. United States Colorado
Sitka Salmon Shares United States Illinois
Sizzlefish United States North Carolina
Slade Gorton & Co Inc. United States Massachusetts
Sleeping Giant Inc. United States Washington
Small Scales Seafood United States Alaska
Smart Source Seafood United States Alaska
SOGDA Limited, Inc. United States Washington
Stavis Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Stikine Seafoods United States Alaska
Stonegate Foods, Inc. United States California
Tai Foong USA United States Washington
Taku Fisheries / Smokeries United States Alaska
Taku River Reds United States Alaska
Thalassa Seafoods Belgium
The Auction Block Co. United States Alaska
The Fish Guys Inc. United States Minnesota
The Fishin' Company United States Pennsylvania
The Salmon Hookup United States Alaska
Thunder's Catch United States Idaho
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 Wives United States Washington
Wild For Salmon United States Pennsylvania
Wild Planet Foods, Inc. United States California
Wildfish Cannery United States Alaska
Willowfield Enterprises Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Worldwide Seafoods (1997) Ltd. Canada British Columbia
ZF America United States Washington