Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fish - Organic, Local, & in Season Part 3

More sustainable wild seafood

Salmon are still regulated by a half dozen different government agencies in addition to the State of Alaska. The state seems to have more control of these species.   Probably owing to the fact that they can manage spawning grounds, rearing grounds, commercial fishing, sport fishing, guided/charter fishing, personal use fishing, and subsistence fishing.  Sounds complicated already doesn't it, just wait. 

Most of Alaska's commercially caught salmon either come from either the Copper River or Bristol Bay.  Smaller quantities come from the Cook Inlet (near 3/4 of Alaska's population) and any the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Both of the smaller areas pose complications to salmon being sustainably fished.  The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta feed vast portions of the interior of Alaska with subsistence caught salmon, this is regulated differently than sport fishing, commercial fishing, and personal use fishing in Alaska. The Yukon King salmon populations have not met escapement goals in recent years  for either Alaska or for the international treaty with Canada.  Some of this may be due to previous over fishing in the Yukon river but it is at least partially attributed to commercial by-catch of juvenile king salmon with the pollock trawlers. The cook inlet problems stem from the fact that the two largest commercial fisheries, the Kenai and Kasilof, are in the lower cook inlet and catch many fish headed for the upper cook inlet where many salmon populations have crashed in recent years. Still with these concerns Most of Alaska's salmon are sustainably fished.

There are 5 species of Pacific salmon and one species of Atlantic salmon, actually a trout and not a salmon. All farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon, even those on the west coast.  This farmed salmon should not be eaten EVER!  The fish is fed antibiotics (because of the close confinement in pens breeds disease), corn & soybeans (which fish were never intended to eat and likely contains GMO crops), and because the FDA has recently approved frankenfish AKA genetically modified salmon (so that the fish can better tolerate eating corn and soybeans). In addition to these problems the Atlantic salmon are farmed on the west coast where they regularly escape from their pens and jeopardize wild salmon stocks with disease, competition for food, competition for breeding ground, and risk of contamination of the genetic modifications.

Back to the 5 species of wild Pacific Salmon, they are King (chinook), Red, Silver (coho), Chum (silver bright, dog), and Pink.  If a salmon is a wild pacific caught it will list the species even in restaurants.  If it just reads Salmon without a species then it is probably farmed salmon.  The exception is where the salmon is canned, which is never served as a filet, and served as salmon patties, omelets, frittatas, etc. The cans will label the species, usually Pink or Chum, which is most often labeled silver bright, and occasionally red salmon. If your restaurant does not list the species be sure to ask, if they do not know or if it just comes in a big box from the truck then it is farmed salmon which taste like fishy cardboard and has none of those healthy omega 3's you are looking for.  The most abundant wild species are Red and Pink salmon followed by chum, silver and King salmon in that order.  King salmon are the largest often 30-60 pounds. Chum salmon are next biggest at 12-35 pounds. Red and Silver salmon are next in line averaging between ten and twenty pounds.  Pinks are the smallest at only 2-5 pounds. You will never see fresh pink and chum salmon in the market, because the are abundant at the same time as Reds, Silvers, and King Salmon and they are considered inferior.  I feel this is wrong, but most people feel this way because both of these fish quickly loose their meat quality shortly after entering fresh water.  I personally like to eat Chums as much as Silvers.  King Salmon are the first to hit the market in May, followed by Red Salmon in June, and Silvers in Late July. If you eat a King after july, Red after mid August, Silver After september then the fish has likely been frozen, ice glazed and shipped then thawed by your grocery store or market. Sometimes these have been frozen, shipped to China thawed, pick the bones out and sometimes processed into smaller filets, then refrozen and shipped to the USA.  Since pinks and chums are always canned their season matters less but it is late May thru August.

If you are going to buy Alaska wild salmon try to buy thru distributers who are based in Alaska.  Most distributers are based in Washington and Oregon and all of that money goes to them instead of to Alaska where salmon is the most valuable renewable resource. One such distributer is 10th & M Seafood in Anchorage. I know there are other, but they are the only one I have personally used.  They have reasonable prices and will ship you salmon overnight anywhere in the US and Canada.  It will be shipped frozen this time of year but you can keep it frozen in your freezer, till you need it.  You did buy in bulk didn't you?  By buying from Alaskan distributers It allows that money to stay in the local economy just like shopping at your local farmer's market or hardware store keeps more money in your community than shopping at national chains does.

P.S.  If you travel to Alaska and fish, then you can drop your cooler off filled with salmon and 10th & M will hold it in their freezer till you get home and then overnight it to you.  This is cheeper than sending it overnight by Fedex, even though they will be the ones delivering it. Or if you can freeze your catch before you fly home, you can check your cooler as an extra bag, if it is not over 50 pounds, just remember to duck tape it closed.

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