Russian Sockeye Salmon?

Sonia - September 2, 2016

You may have noticed that the market has recently been flooded with fresh sockeye salmon. Members of our Community Supported Fishery know that there is no ocean sockeye salmon fishing happening in BC right now. So if there is no fishing on the Fraser river, where is this salmon coming from? And why is it so cheap?

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Mystery fish abounds in the industrial seafood system!
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Freshwater-caught sockeye salmon are pretty easy to distinguish from those caught in the ocean.

As you probably know, the disastrous return of Fraser River sockeye has been all over the news. (Read our recent blog post on this topic). Without this fishery, there is no legal ocean fishery for sockeye salmon of any kind any where in BC right now. It is possible that there might be some limited First Nations Fishing for sockeye in their terminal lakes, but these fish would be noticeable by the yellow-to-red coloured skin of a fresh-water cycle spawning salmon. If a vendor claims to have fresh, wild, ocean-caught BC sockeye salmon, either they are misinformed (it is not from BC, it was previously frozen) or their salmon was poached. Either way, buying that fish seems like a pretty bad idea!

 

Sockeye salmon fishing in Alaska is also coming to a close with the last few fish trickling in. Like the runs in BC, Alaskan sockeye salmon runs are Ocean Wise recommended and a great choice when available. So if a fish vendor claims their fresh sockeye is from Alaska, this is still possible, though on a very small scale, and only for another week or so.

 

The one place in the world where sockeye salmon are still arriving in large numbers is Siberia in Russia. If and how those fisheries are managed is unclear. Who fishes for them, if and how fishermen are paid, conditions of labour, methods of fishing, damage to local ecosystems, and by-catch are all unknown. As such, Ocean Wise reports that sockeye salmon from Russia and Japan are currently under review and, therefore, are not Ocean Wise Recommended. Many Canadian fish companies regularly import massive volumes of Russian fish in years when local sockeye is less abundant, and this cheap sockeye can be frozen, stored, only to re-appear on the market for many years to come.

 

Something else to consider are the effects of foreign salmon imports on our local food system. If we consistently source salmon from foreign runs, local fishing businesses go under. And if the infrastructure for a local fishery disappears, we will have no way of accessing our local fish in the event of the collapse of those foreign fisheries due to poor management, disease, or climate change.

 

In any case, if you are concerned about sourcing your seafood ethically, it’s important you know where it is coming from! If you see fresh sockeye salmon in your local grocery store, fish counter, or restaurant, ask who caught it and where it’s from. And we encourage you to let those purveyors of seafood know that it is problematic if they can’t answer those questions.

Sonia - September 2, 2016


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Russian Sockeye Salmon?

Sonia - September 2, 2016

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