Salmon

The fishery

Wild BC Salmon is one of the most well-known west coast seafood delicacies. There five different types of Salmon species found in the waters of Canada’s pacific coast. Chinook, Coho, Chum, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon all have unique appearances and lifecycles. The one thing that all five Salmon species have in common is that they are all delicious. Sustainably fished using three different specialized harvest methods, Salmon harvesters catch these iconic fish using gillnet, seine, or troll gear.

The Salmon fisheries in BC are co-managed by industry associations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Salmon fishing associations are divided by harvest method and fishing areas. Three Salmon Associations are involved in the BC Seafood Alliance including the Gulf Troll Association represents Salmon trollers that fish in the Gulf of Georgia and Johnstone Straits, the Area B Seine Association represents seine harvesters in the Johnstone Strait and Georgia Strait, and Northern Trollers Association represents Salmon trollers in the Central Coast and Haida Gwaii. The Salmon Industry Associations and the Department of Fisheries promote sound practices and management of Salmon resource. They are industry pioneers who are committed and accountable for keeping salmon fisheries quality drive, science-based and sustainable.

About

Born in the coastal and interior waters of BC, wild Salmon swim to the open Pacific Ocean to mature and return to their native waters to spawn. There are five different Salmon species swimming in the waters of the Pacific Coast. Chinook Salmon are largest of the species; the average commercial size is 22-32 inches long and 20 pounds. Chinook meat is deep red with a full flavour and a large flake. Coho Salmon are medium in size, ranging from 22-26 inches in length and averaging 4-12 pounds. Coho meat is vibrant reddish orange with a versatile flavour and moderately firm texture. Chum Salmon range from 22- 26 inches in length and averaging 8 pounds. Chum meat is reddish pink with the firmest texture. Sockeye Salmon are the leanest species, ranging from 20-24 inches in length and averaging 6 pounds. Sockeye meat is the deepest red with a rich flavour and firm texture. Pink Salmon are the smallest species, ranging from 14-18 inches in length and averaging 4 pounds. Pink meat is light rose and has a soft texture.

The harvest

There are three different types of harvest methods to catch wild BC Salmon, these methods provide the best quality of fish, protect the natural environment, and ensure a sustainable Salmon resource. Trollers use hooks and lines with lures to catch all five Salmon species, the lines are spread out on long poles that extend over the sides of boats. The type of lure, the way they are arranged, boat speed, water depth, and the use of on-board electronic systems and most importantly a fishermen’s experience are used to locate and identify salmon, enable trollers to target only the desired species. Caught fish are reeled in one-by-one, often dressed (gills and entrails removed) on-board and iced or quick frozen. Approximately 25% of wild BC Salmon is harvested by trollers.

Gillnets are attached to small boats, and Salmon swim towards the nets and become trapped by their gills. The nets, regulated by length, depth and mesh size, are set close to the shore and hauled frequently to collect the salmon. The mesh size and the way the nets are suspended allow the fishermen to selectively harvest any species or size of salmon. Gillnetters harvest all species of wild Salmon, they mainly catch Sockeye and Chum salmon in coastal rivers, and account for 25% of the commercial harvest. Seine boats use large nets to encircle fish before closing the bottom of the net and gently scooping the fish out with a smaller dip net. Seine fishing is both sustainable and selective. Approximately 50% of the commercial Salmon catch is harvested using purse seines. Mainly Sockeye, Pink, and Chum salmon are harvested using Seine boats.

Screenshot 2023-09-27 at 2.28.24 PM

Sustainability

With five different Salmon species, with vastly different socks and complex lifecycles, wild BC Salmon require strict management to ensure sustainable harvesting practises and quality handling processes. The Salmon fisheries are limited entry – only individuals with a licence can commercially harvest Salmon in BC. The Department of Fisheries consults several key parties to develop an annual management plan. These parties include industry members, First Nations, biologists, researchers, and environmental groups. The management plan outlines the forecasted number of each Salmon species that will be potentially available for harvest in each tightly defined fishing area. The plan also notes the specific allocation of this potential harvest to each gear type in that year. These allocations are not fixed entitlements, rather a projection of available fishing opportunities given the most current forecasts of stock abundance and best efforts to achieve coast-wide target allocations by gear type. Often, necessary adjustments are made during the fishing season to address conservation concerns or other unforeseen circumstances.

Selective harvesting practices in the commercial BC salmon fishery include: fishing at tightly controlled times and in specific areas to avoid encounters of non-target species; using selective fishing gear and methods that minimize the catch of non-target species; and, implementing best practices to release non-target species when inadvertently caught and ensuring their survival when released.

When

Wild BC salmon is seasonal and is primarily available fresh during the summer and fall months, mainly July to October. Harvest times however vary from year to year depending on the species, the life cycle of the individual stocks and the fisheries management plan in place that year.

When

Wild BC salmon is seasonal and is primarily available fresh during the summer and fall months, mainly July to October. Harvest times however vary from year to year depending on the species, the life cycle of the individual stocks and the fisheries management plan in place that year.

Where

The five species of wild BC salmon can be found in an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 rivers and streams in BC and Yukon. Salmon are found predominantly in the Skeena River and Nass River in northern BC, and the Fraser River in the south and its tributaries. These areas account for over 75% of the total number of salmon. Accordingly, BC’s commercial salmon fishermen fish for wild BC salmon in the Pacific Ocean and in the rivers of British Columbia, Canada. To ensure sustainable fishing practices, the entire BC coastline and rivers have been mapped and divided into clearly defined and labelled fishing areas.

The market

Wild BC Salmon is one of the most iconic West Coast seafood species. During Salmon season, fresh salmon is a popular choice, straight off the fishing boat or at your local market. In the off-season, whole salmon that has been flash frozen or frozen-at-sea to lock in freshness and quality is often available at the dock or local markets as well. Salmon is also extremely popular canned, cured, or smoked. Salmon is popular in markets around the world, but particularly loved in North America. Salmon Caviar is also produced by Chum, Pink or Sockeye Salmon. Salmon Caviar is is a delicacy in Japan.