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Fish tales
Magazine

Tinned salmon

Speaking about tinned salmon: more and more varieties are becoming available like wild pink salmon, wild red salmon and farmed salmon. The producer can also include the species on the label, which can be useful if you prefer the flavour of one to another. It’s also good to know whether or not the salmon has been preserved with the bones. Heat softens the nutritious bones and makes them digestible. The skin is often also preserved in the tin with the salmon.

Wild salmon have to swim a lot during their life and all that hard work shows itself through in the flesh, as the fat is more evenly distributed compared to farmed salmon. The wild salmon’s firm flesh also generally has a stronger flavour. Farmed salmon can be found all over the world and European farming pools hold Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) but it is highly unlikely you’ll find Atlantic salmon in your tin as most tinned salmon is wild salmon from the coastal waters and rivers of Alaska. These seas and rivers are some of the cleanest in the world, which is important as the salmon’s fat easily retains impurities.

Because the fisheries have been working under strict catch regulations since 1959, the existence of the Alaskan salmon is not threatened.

Because the fisheries have been working under strict catch regulations since 1959, the existence of the Alaskan salmon is not threatened. For years, scientists and fishermen – often Inuit – have been keeping track of how many salmon swim to the spawning grounds each year. Based on these numbers, they determine the catch. This approach has earned them the coveted MSC certification. Five types of salmon that are known by the general public under their native name are caught during the season: the light pink chum salmon or keta salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) is generally the cheapest. The humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) is sold as pink salmon.

The coho or silver salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is important to fishermen because of the high price they fetch. The best salmon swim up river in the spring. The fatty sockeye (Oncorhynchus nerka) or red salmon is available freshly smoked as well as tinned. The chinook or king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) is the largest of the salmon family and those caught are mainly destined for the smokehouses. Chum from the Yukon and Pink from the Polar Star In Alaska, both the indigenous people and other Americans fish for salmon with an MSC-certification and are bound by strict catch regulations. In summer, Yup’ik Eskimo Maxine casts her nets from her small boat into the fast flowing Yukon, in the hope of catching lots of chum salmon which, according to Maxine, is the best salmon available.

One of the 6,200 inhabitants of Kodiak Island, Pat Pikus, takes a different approach to salmon fishing: he sails out to open sea and uses ring nets. Fellow fishermen see Pat as one of the best salmon fishermen in Alaska. He catches pink salmon, sailing his family’s boat the Polar Star. The fishermen name the pink salmon after a village at the foot of the narrow Aleutian mountain range, an isthmus reaching a different time zone in the Pacific Ocean.

Fishermen like Pat, who use ring nets in this part of Alaska, strictly adhere to the catch restrictions.

Fishermen like Pat, who use ring nets in this part of Alaska, strictly adhere to the catch restrictions. A portion of his catch is destined for the Ocean Beauty cannery in Seattle, the same cannery where the Fish Tales tins are manufactured. Salmon fishing on the open sea in these tempestuous parts of the Pacific is not without its dangers. Pat and his men regularly save people from drowning in the freezing cold water.