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Atlantic vs. Pacific Salmon

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  • Max Ledbetter Jan 5, 2003 02:24 PM

If you don't know the difference between farmed Atlantic salmon and wild Pacific salmon (the Atlantic salmon's uncooked flesh looks distinctively fatty, and it's dyed "red"), you might think that there's more natural salmon out there than ever before.

Max
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  1. I never liked salmon until I tried wild Alaskan salmon at my fishmarket (Pisacane...First Avenue and 52nd Street..highly recommended) What an amazing difference when compared to the farmed salmon sold in our local D'Agostino market.....this may have been obvious to other hounds but it was a real awakening to me.....we now eat the wild salmon once a week...with great anticipation...

    1 Reply
    1. re: erica

      Wild Atlantic salmon is virtually unavailable in the US, but it is even better than wild Pacific salmon....

    2. The season for wild Pacific salmon starts in late October and goes through the spring (I think you're safe at least until March). Strike now -- there are plenty of months of the year where it's nearly impossible to find. We only eat wild salmon in our house, and we pay the premium for it. We just enjoy it in the fall, winter, and early spring, and skip it in the summertime, when only the farmed stuff is available.

      The more I read about the evils of farmed salmon the more worried I get. It seemed like such a good idea -- farm the salmon and don't put strain on the wild population, right? Well this is one example that simple, uninformed logic doesn't work. We all need to get as educated about all our food as possible, and demand the most sustainably obtained food as possible.

      It's a bonus though -- once you've had wild salmon you'll never go back to farmed, and you won't mind waiting for the season :)

      11 Replies
      1. re: Mrs. Smith

        The season for pacific salmon in California ended on October 15th, i believe. It will begin again in May.

        1. re: Mrs. Smith

          Wild salmon is not sustainable.

          If more people demand wild salmon, there will be shortages, prices will skyrocket, and there will be a fishing frenzy as fishermen try and make profits on your demand, and overfish it.

          How will that not harm the salmon population?

          1. re: ironmom

            The wild salmon catch is heavily regulated. Fish are already being taken at the maximum legal level so there can't be fishing frenzy. Many biologists believe that salmon fisheries in California and Alaska are being managed sustainably.

            The Montery Bay Aquarium has an excellent guide to guilt free seafood consumption. It's diffcult to apply though because most servers have no idea where their shrimp came from and you're lucky if you can find a fish monger who knows how the tuna was caught.

            Salmon is easy. If they don't know, it's farmed Atlantic.

            Link: http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/cr_seafoodwa...

            1. re: BigLizard

              If the demand for wild salmon increases greatly, the price will also rise greatly, as the supply is constant.

              What do you pay now for wild salmon? If the price were to double or triple, would you still see that as fair and reasonable?

              Wouldn't that make it harder to prevent poaching and other methods of circumventing the law, if the potential profits were so great?

              1. re: ironmom

                Most people don't know or care about the origin of their fish. The wide availability of farmed Atlantic Salmon keeps wild salmon prices artificially low. If prices were to rise significantly due to consumer awareness then some independent fishermen could actually make a decent living.

                Yes. I am willing to pay more for a product so that the people who produce that product can enjoy a decent standard of living.

                I guess it depends on whether you believe that there can be a sustainable harvest. Correct me if you have evidence otherwise, but I don't think that illegal fishing will ever be a serious problem in US waters. Our coasts are too well patrolled. There are a limited number of marinas and they tend to be tight knit communities. If someone is catching fish in commercial quantities they have to land them somewhere. A harbor master or fellow fisherman is sure to notice pretty quickly. Most illegal fishing is done by individuals who catch a few fish without a license or out of season.

                1. re: BigLizard

                  The problem with illegal fishing takes place not under the jurisdiction of the harbormaster, but out on the open seas, where the foreign fleet can come in quickly and fish out an area, and supervision is difficult. None of these factory ships have any contact with local marinas.

                  Ships get stopped all the time with way too much or the wrong fish in their holds. Why would it be different with salmon?

                  You say that farmed Atlantic salmon keeps the price artificially low. That goes for $5 a pound around here. I would say that's borderline for me. I occasionally eat salmon. If the price doubled, I would probably never be able to afford it. c'est la vie.

                  But that's the price of farmed salmon I'm talking about. What do you pay currently for wild salmon, and how much would you pay?

                  1. re: ironmom

                    In my neighborhood (Park Slope, Brooklyn), wild salmon sells for about $13 per pound. To me, the taste difference is worth the price, though we eat it only rarely, because of the high price.

                    1. re: ironmom

                      It's out of season now so I can't get it fresh at all, but I think it's usually less than $10. It's currently about $8 frozen and fresh farmed is approximately the same. In season, if I drive over to Half Moon Bay I can buy it directly off a boat for about $3.50 but the minimum is around 10lbs (whole fish). I missed it this year but in fall they'll also have fresh roe. Awesome homemade caviar. I should probably do a whole post about this since I've never seen it come up.

                      I routinely pay $15-20 for fresh Ahi Tuna and would probably be willing to pay that for Salmon as well. Assuming of course that this was the honest going price.

                      Your argument about fishing on the "open seas" is a good point but it mostly applies to other species. Tuna and Swordfish are found well offshore in international waters. Salmon on the other hand are mostly caught near shore in territorial waters where it is relatively easy to enforce regulations.

                      I also agree with Susan. Pacific and Atlantic Salmon are different species with unique taste and texture. The farming industry tries hard to make them look the same (by special feed to color the meat of Atlantic Salmon) and promote the false sense of equivalent product.

                      1. re: BigLizard

                        Do start a thread on salmon roe. I'd love to know how to make it.

                      2. re: ironmom

                        At a good fish market in LA, we pay $13/pd for wild salmon, $15 for the really special Copper River variety in season. Worth every penny.

                        The same place sells farmed Scottish salmon for $8/pd year round.

                        I don't ever see fish at the good stores go to under a $8/pd. Only the huge supermarkets have it at $5 and it looks unappealing.

                        1. re: ironmom

                          I was in Safeway the other day and I saw fresh farmed salmon on sale for $4.50/lb. I must admit that this is a tempting price.