A Guide to Pacific Salmon: Varieties, Fisheries, and More


Salmon, ranging in color from dusty pink to bright apricot orange, encompasses a wide variety of species and production methods. Pittman Seafoods is a major supplier of both wild Pacific and farmed Atlantic salmon, which dominate the global salmon trade.

Pacific Salmon Fisheries

Pacific salmon, born and spawn in freshwater rivers and streams, live in the ocean. There are six types of wild salmon in the Pacific Ocean, including king, pink, chum, sockeye, and coho. The United States harvested over half of the overall catch in the past year (53%), followed by Russia (38%), Japan (8%), Canada (1%), and South Korea (less than 1%). The most iconic and valuable fisheries in the United States are found in Alaska, where the majority of the salmon catch occurs. The state’s 2017 harvest of 224 million salmon was valued at nearly $680 million at the docks. While much of this salmon is traditionally sold and consumed domestically, there are significant exports to Europe and other markets as well.

Differentiation Among Pacific Salmon Species

Each Pacific salmon species has its own unique flavor and texture profile. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular ones:

King/Chinook (Oncorhynchus tschawytscha)

The biggest and most highly prized Pacific salmon species, the King salmon has a very high fat content and rich flesh that ranges from white to deep red. This species is found in rivers from central California to northwest Alaska and is harvested in both ocean and river habitats.

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Sockeye/Red (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Noted for its bright red-orange flesh and deep rich flavor, Sockeye salmon, also known as “reds,” turn from bright silver to deep red as they move upstream to spawn. Alaska is the primary source of this valuable salmon species.

Coho/Silver (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Coho salmon, also called silver salmon, have silvery skin and bright red flesh. Their texture is slightly more delicate than that of King salmon, but their flavor is similar. Alaska is the main supplier of Coho salmon to the global market.

Pink/Humpback (Oncorhynchus gorbusha)

Pink salmon, also known as humpback salmon, have light-colored and flavored flesh with a low fat content. They are often canned but can also be found fresh, frozen, and smoked. The name “humpback” comes from the distinctive hump they develop on their back when they spawn.

Chum/Keta/Dog (Oncorhynchus keta)

Chum salmon, also called dog salmon, have pale to medium-colored flesh and a lower fat content than other salmon species. They are usually canned or sold frozen. Chum salmon are primarily caught in Alaska.

Plentiful Pacific Salmon Stocks

Among the Pacific salmon varieties, pink salmon are the smallest (three to five pounds) and the most abundant, accounting for almost half of the salmon harvested in the Pacific region. Chum salmon comes in second at 29%, followed by sockeye at 19%, coho at 3%, and king salmon at 1%. Pittman Seafoods specializes in the volume supply of pink salmon.

Future Outlook

Alaska’s salmon fishery management is considered one of the best in the world, with many Category-A fisheries. The state is known for its data transparency, escapement monitoring, and legislation prioritizing the protection of wild stocks. The entire Alaska salmon fishery is certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fisheries Standard, guaranteeing its sustainability. However, salmon catch levels can vary significantly from season to season. The 2018 season is expected to see a total salmon catch of 149 million fish, down 34% from last year. This decrease is mainly due to the forecasted pink salmon harvest, which is expected to be half of last year’s total. Other species, such as sockeye, chum, and coho, are also projected to see changes in their harvest numbers.

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Visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill to experience the exquisite flavors of Pacific salmon dishes for yourself.