Illustration of Salmon (Sockeye)

Salmon (Sockeye)

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Harvest Method

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sockeye salmon (Early summer run)

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Reefnet

Location

Washington - Lummi Island, San Juan Island

Overall Rating

3.5 / 5

Summary

Salmon is one of the most economically important seafood species to the US. Washington provides a small fraction of the salmon on the market, and most is sold domestically.

Management is highly effective, and is enforced federally by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as by the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Fraser River Panel. Total allowable catch is regulated during the season and is modified according to escapement numbers that are monitored twice a week. Sockeye salmon have life history characteristics that make them resistant to fishing pressure. Population abundance is healthy, with the exception of the Cultus Lake sockeye salmon, which are endangered. Mortality rates caused by fishing are sustainable.

Bycatch is minimal since reefnets are highly selective, and non-salmonid species are rarely caught. Although only hatchery salmon may be retained by the reefnet fishery, and wild individuals are returned live, individuals from other sensitive or vulnerable salmon stocks are sometimes caught. Reefnets do not typically cause habitat damage since they are not in contact with the sea floor. However, the impacts of removing salmon from the ecosystem are not well understood, despite the important ecological role that the salmon play as a keystone species.

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  • Reefnet
Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Variety

Sockeye salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Gillnet

Location

Washington North Pacific

Overall Rating

2.9 / 5

Summary

Salmon is one of the most economically important seafood species to the US. Washington provides a small fraction of the salmon on the market, and most is sold domestically.

Chinook coho and chum fisheries on the US west coast are supplemented by hatchery fish which intermingle with wild salmon stocks. Thus there are some uncertainties with regards to the abundance of the wild populations. Pink and sockeye salmon have limited hatchery contribution. The Chinook, coho, chum and sockeye populations of Washington North Pacific are healthy. The pink salmon in the Puget Sound are the most abundant salmon species in the area. Abundances have reached up to 10 million recently with very little contribution from hatcheries.

Management of the salmon populations has improved; especially with the listing of several stocks under the Endangered Species Act. Managing the wild salmon stocks of the US is complicated due to a combination of endangered species, natural populations, hatchery stocks, migratory fisheries, and multiple user groups. Considering the complexity of the fishery, management is reasonably effective especially concerning efforts to minimize bycatch of endangered salmon stocks.

Bycatch of endangered salmon occurs in several of the US West Coast fisheries. Stocks of concern include the west coast troll fisheries of Chinook and coho, as well as the Puget Sound sockeye caught by gillnet and seine. However, in the Washington North Pacific fisheries, the bycatch of endangered salmon is negligible.

The fishing gear used in salmon fisheries do not typically cause habitat damage as little contact is made with the ocean floor. Of concern is the lack of ecosystem-based management. Hatchery fish are allowed to spawn in rivers which could potentially lead to hybridization or competition with the wild population. Regulatory measures could improve around the management of hatchery fish.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - British Columbia Salmon

Variety

Sockeye salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Various

Location

North and Central Coast, Inner Southern including Fraser River, West Coast Vancouver Island

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
British Columbia Salmon

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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  • Various
Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - Alaska Salmon

Variety

Sockeye salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Gillnet, Purse seine, Troll

Location

Alaska except Annette Islands Reserve, South East Alaska, and Yakutat.

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Alaska Salmon

Summary

Sockeye salmon start and finish their life in freshwater lakes and rivers, migrating to the ocean for the adult phase of their life cycle. Over thousands of years of returning to their natal streams to spawn, salmon have become reproductively isolated and genetically distinct from salmon in other river systems. Habitat degradation, changing ocean conditions and fishing pressure threaten many of these distinct groups of sockeye, with sockeye disappearing entirely from some rivers, particularly in Southern BC and the US Northwest. In other parts of its range, such as Alaska, Sockeye continue to return to their native streams in healthy numbers.

Salmon have relatively short life spans and high reproductive output. Sockeye live for 4-7 years, dividing their time between lake, river and ocean systems. Juvenile sockeye spend up to two years in freshwater before heading out to sea. After 2-3 years in the ocean, sockeye return to their native streams and rivers to spawn, preferably near lakes. There are over 243 separate spawning sites for sockeye across the Pacific Rim, which can be grouped into approximately 80 management units (CU’s). Returns of sockeye salmon have been declining in recent years with certain subpopulations or stocks being placed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The species as a whole is not threatened but several of the subpopulations are at risk or local extinction. Habitat degradation, mixed stock fishing and shifting oceanic conditions are the main threats to sockeye salmon populations. These threats have had a much greater impact in the southern part of their range (Southern BC and the US) than in Alaska, where sockeye abundance is highest. Adding to confusion, the 2010 BC Sockeye run was one of the largest in the last 50 years.

In Alaska, salmon fisheries are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A major challenge in salmon fisheries management is the significant year-to-year variation in salmon run abundance. In both Canada and the US salmon fisheries managers establish pre-season estimates and then perform in-season assessments to determine catch limits. In both regions, conservation is the primary objective in management plans; however, these objectives need to be balanced with the social and economic requirements and obligations to all the various stakeholders, particularly Aboriginal peoples.

Harvest methods used for sockeye are highly specific, so bycatch is considered low compared to total catch. Most commercial sockeye harvests operate as mixed-stock fisheries which can capture sockeye from several different stocks at once. This poses a challenge to managing stocks that are of conservation concern. Seine, Gillnet and troll fishing gear have minimal impact on marine habitats as they do not usually make contact with the seafloor. Removing salmon from the ocean and the decline of salmon returning to river systems may have significant ecosystem impacts. Marine and terrestrial mammals and birds rely on salmon for food and the forests adjacent to salmon bearing streams are closely linked to nutrients released from salmon after their death.

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

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Ocean Wise Recommended

Ocean Wise

Eco-Certification:

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) - VA-Delta Kamchatka salmon

Variety

Sockeye salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Beach seine, Trap net

Location

Ozernaya River, Russia

Eco-Certification

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
VA-Delta Kamchatka salmon

Summary

Ocean Wise recommends some Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries, but not all. Learn more about how the MSC certification was bench-marked to Ocean Wise.

Learn more about harvest methods

Variety

Sockeye salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method

Wild

Gillnet, Purse seine, Troll

Location

US Washington, Oregon, California ** except WA North Pacific

Overall Rating

2.6 / 5

Summary

Global production of salmon reaches about 926,000 mt per year. Washington, California and Oregon are relatively small producers. An average of 12,986 mt were caught between 1998 and 2012 by these three states. Chinook salmon caught in the lower US comprise about half of the total North American catch.

Chinook coho and chum fisheries on the US west coast are supplemented by hatchery fish which intermingle with wild salmon stocks. Thus there are some uncertainties with regards to the abundance of the wild populations. Pink and sockeye salmon have limited hatchery contribution. Of special concern are the Puget Sound Chinook and Columbia coho fisheries which target hatchery fish but accidentally catch the natural-origin salmon which are listed as endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act.

Management of the salmon populations has improved; especially with the listing of several stocks under the Endangered Species Act. Managing the wild salmon stocks of the US is complicated due to a combination of endangered species, natural populations, hatchery stocks, migratory fisheries, and multiple user groups. Considering the complexity of the fishery, management is reasonably effective especially concerning efforts to minimize bycatch of endangered salmon stocks.

Bycatch of endangered salmon occurs in several of these fisheries. Stocks of concern include the west coast troll fisheries of Chinook and coho, as well as the Puget Sound sockeye caught by gillnet and seine. The fishing gear used in salmon fisheries do not typically cause habitat damage as little contact is made with the ocean floor. Of concern is the lack of ecosystem-based management. Hatchery fish are allowed to spawn in rivers which could potentially lead to hybridization or competition with the wild population. Regulatory measures could improve around the management of hatchery fish.

Learn more about harvest methods