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Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - Pacific (FAO 67)
Stock area - Alaska
Stock detail - Central
Accreditation -
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is a good sustainable fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find similar fish to eat.

Sustainability overview

All sockeye salmon caught in waters off Alaska is from fisheries certified to the FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Programme as responsibly managed for sustainable use. This is the best choice for wild Pacific sockeye salmon.


Pacific salmon occur from California north along the Pacific coast throughout the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean waters adjacent to Alaska. The five species (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye) are members of a large family of fish known as salmonidae, which are abundant throughout the temperate zones of the northern and southern hemispheres. Pacific salmon are a shorter lived species and much more prolific breeders than Atlantic salmon. Sockeye salmon are one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon, measuring 18 to 31inches in length and weighing 4-15 pounds. Sea-going sockeye salmon have iridescent silver flanks, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue top, giving them their "blueback" name. Some fine black speckling may occur on the back, but large spots are absent. Sockeye salmon are prized for their firm, bright-orange flesh. As sockeye salmon return upriver to their spawning grounds, their bodies turn brilliant red and their heads take on a greenish color, hence their other common name, ?red? salmon. Breeding-age males develop a humped back and hooked jaws filled with tiny, visible teeth. Juveniles, while in fresh water, have dark, oval parr marks on their sides. These parr marks are short-less than the diameter of the eye-and rarely extend below the lateral line. Like all species of Pacific salmon, sockeye salmon are anadromous, living in the ocean but entering fresh water to spawn. Sockeye salmon spend one to four years in fresh water and one to three years in the ocean. In Alaska, most sockeye salmon return to spawn in June and July in freshwater drainages that contain one or more lakes. Spawning itself usually occurs in rivers, streams, and upwelling areas along lake beaches. During this time 2,000 ? 5,000 eggs are deposited in one or more ?redds?, which the female digs with her tail over several days time. Males and females both die within a few weeks after spawning. Eggs hatch during the winter, and the young ?alevins? remain in the gravel, living off their yolk sacs. In the spring. they emerge from the gravel as ?fry? and move to rearing areas. In systems with lakes, juveniles usually spend one to three years in fresh water, feeding on zooplankton and small crustaceans, before migrating to the ocean in the spring as ?smolts?. However, in systems without lakes, many juveniles migrate to the ocean soon after emerging from the gravel. Smolts weigh only a few ounces upon entering salt water, but they grow quickly during their 1-3 years in the ocean, feeding on plankton, insects, small crustaceans, and occasionally squid and small fish. Alaska sockeye salmon travel thousands of miles during this time, drifting in the counter-clockwise current of the Alaska Gyre in the Gulf of Alaska. Eventually they return to spawn in the same freshwater system where they were hatched.

Stock information

Stock area

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Stock information
The Alaska Pacific salmon fisheries occur within US territorial waters adjacent to the coast of the State of Alaska, and are managed principally by staff of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). The Alaska state constitution, Article VIII, Section 4, requires the management, conservation and protection of the salmon resource and its habitat. Today, this constitutional requirement, coupled with effective management, has contributed to the healthy status of the salmon fisheries. In 1959, state-wide salmon harvests were about 25 million salmon a year. In 2012 (more than 50 years later) Alaska's commercial salmon catch was 124 million fish. In collaboration with ADFG, who is tasked with salmon conservation, the Alaska Board of Fisheries allocates salmon to the various gear users, following a well respected yearly cycle of public meetings throughout Alaska to actively engage stakeholders in the decision making processes. Following State constitution, management measures implemented include: establishing open and closed seasons, in season (realtime) management by virtue of Emergency Orders, setting quotas, bag limits, harvest limits (after escapement goals are reached), sex and size limitations, establishing the methods and means employed in the pursuit, capture and transport of fish, watershed and habitat improvement, management, conservation, protection, use, disposal, propagation and stocking of fish, regulating commercial, sport, guided sport, subsistence, and personal use fishing as needed for the conservation, development, and sustainable utilisation of fisheries. All the wild salmon (pink, chum, coho, sockeye and Chinook) caught the waters off Alaska is from fisheries certified to the FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Programme as responsibly managed for sustainable use. Following full assessment, the fisheries reached certification in 2011 and it was concluded that the Alaska salmon fisheries meet the FAO-Based RFM conformance criteria. Yearly surveillance assessments validate and ensure that the fishery continues to be managed responsibly.


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Capture information

Salmon in the Central region are harvested by purse seine, drift and fixed net.

Read more about capture methods

ASMI Website: ADFG website:

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