Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is That Wild Salmon Truly Wild?

At John Yi's in the Reading Terminal Market in recent weeks "New Zealand Wild King Salmon" has been displayed at $17.99/pound.

Despite the sign, I have little doubt it's anything but farmed salmon.

Although in the late 19th century California kings were successfully raised from eggs in a New Zealand hatchery, released into the headwaters of four South Island rivers and took to the wild, virtually all salmon exported from New Zealand today are farm-raised, including the kings.

Does it make a difference?

I won't address the environmental issues here, but if you're only concerned about availability and price, farm-raised salmon are generally a better buy. When it comes to nutritional value, however, farm-raised salmon are a distant second. Whether king or Atlantic, farmed salmon are heavy on Omega-6 fatty acids, and low on Omega-3's; the former are deleterious to health, the latter beneficial. From a nutritional standpoint, you'd be better off with the cheapest canned wild salmon (most, but not all, canned salmon is wild) than farm raised fish.

Yi's does have Alaskan king salmon. Though the 2010 commercial in-shore  king salmon season has barely started, the Alaskan king you're likely to see is frozen from last year's catch. Yi's looked good. Most of the frozen Alaskan salmon I've had, both king and sockeye, have been of excellent quality and texture and closely resemble the fresh. In some respects, since it's usually frozen shortly after landing, what's available to us in Philadelphia can be considered superior to fresh wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest which has made a trans-continental trip.

Although much of the Alaskan salmon you see during the winter is frozen, there is a significant ocean-caught fishery. Southeastern Alaska fisherman brought in 32,000 kings this past season at an average of more than 13 pounces apiece.

In case you're wondering, the 2010 Copper River season began last Friday, May 13 with catches of both king and sockeye (a.k.a. "red"). Another low-catch season for Copper River kings is expected, fewer than 17,000 fish. Sockeyes, on the other hand, are expected to be plentiful, with better than 30 percent more fish this year than last, with an expected 2010 Copper River catch of 1.27 million fish, vs. 900,000 last year, according to Laine Welch, writing in Stories in the News, Ketchikan, Alaska.

For the first time in three years there will be kings from other West Coast states, primarily Oregon and Washington. The catch from the lower 48 has been set at just under 195,000 fish after a hiatus to let the stock rebuild.

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