Other Names: King, Blackmouth, Pacific Salmon
Sustainable Fishing Methods: Trolling Lines
Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Rating: Good Alternative
Biological Information: The Chinook Salmon is a fascinating fish that is born in freshwater streams and rivers. They are unique fish in that they have physiological abilities to adapt to both freshwater and saltwater. The first 3 months to 2 years of their lives are spent in fresh water before migrating to the open ocean where they will end up spending the majority of their lives growing to maturity in 2 to 4 years. In the ocean, salmon feed on plankton, kelp and krill which is what gives them their noticeably pink coloration. When adult Chinook salmon are ready to spawn they migrate back to their ancestral river where the female selectively creates a nest at the bottom of the stream based on her ideal gravel type, water depth and flow. The males then come to spawn with the female and will actively defend their nest site for up to a month before ending their life cycle. Chinook Salmon are a full flavored, high fat content fish with large reddish-orange flakes.
Sustainability: Chinook Salmon in California are fighting an uphill battle. Since the Gold Rush, development on land has lead to the destruction of critical Salmon spawning habitat. The damming of rivers, sedimentation and water diversion projects has meant that huge reaches of essential fish habitat has been blocked or destroyed. With a constrained ability to reproduce, Salmon numbers plummeted. Here locally, the San Lorenzo River which once had runs of 60,000+ fish now sees less than 5000 fish each year. Global warming is also a major contributor as rising ocean temperatures and acidification have lead to increasing variability in bait fish populations. Overfishing has historically been a problem as well. More recently strong regulations backed by extensive scientific efforts has helped to limit the effects of fishing from contributing to the decline of Salmon populations. Every year quotas and the date of season opening is adjusted based on National Marine Fisheries Service surveys. For these reason California Chinook Salmon has been labeled as a “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.