The California wild Pacific salmon run signifies that the magic of spring is in full swing. Salmon has always been an important historic, social, cultural, and economic resource to the Native Coastal Tribes of the Pacific. Our salmon began to gain worldwide recognition when commercial salmon fishing began in earnest in the late 1800s.
The commercial season generally runs from May through August, and the seasons have been fairly consistent since the first ever cancellation of the season took place in 2008, a cancellation that was caused by a drastic drop in the number of salmon returning to spawn. There are a number of factors that have been attributed to the decline, including weather conditions impacting the availability of feed, dams and water diversion, pollution, and overfishing. Even stricter fishing regulations have been implemented to help improve the salmon stocks; currently the fishery is in a state of recovery and will require us to be much more responsible stewards if we hope to see the salmon population flourish again.
So why don’t we eat farmed salmon instead, since it’s cheaper and we don’t have to worry about putting so much work into managing the wild salmon population? First off, farmed salmon just doesn’t taste as good. Wild Pacific salmon has clean, rich, buttery flavors while farmed salmon tends to be oily and bland. Additionally, the farmed salmon industry has been associated with a tremendous amount environmental pollution, raising fish in overcrowded pens requiring heavy antibiotic use, and requiring a disproportionate amount of feed in relation to the meat produced.
There are five main species of Pacific salmon: Kings, Cohos, Chum, Pink, and Sockeye. Chums, Pinks, and Sockeye are most abundant of the species and are the salmon of choice for canning and smoking. Kings and Cohos are more limited in availability, and are highly-prized for their eating qualities. During the wild season the majority of the salmon we sell in the market will be Kings, and we will transition to Cohos when the Kings begin to spawn (Cohos tend to head upstream later in the year).
Behind shrimp, salmon is the second most consumed seafood in America. We crave it year round for its flavor and health benefits (high in omega-3s), and the salmon fisheries have adapted, creating methods to freeze salmon so that it is available even after the season has closed. Some may balk at eating frozen fish, but when done properly the end result can be amazing. Alaskan fisherman Bruce Gore was a pioneer in freezing salmon without negatively impacting its flavor or texture. At Bi-Rite Bruce Gore’s beautiful, frozen-at-sea salmon is what we use to supplement our fresh, wild Pacific salmon program.
We are excited to welcome a new producer to the Bi-Rite Family: Norah Eddy and her line of Salty Girl Seafood. Salty Girl Seafood offers an assortment of frozen, marinated, wild-caught seafood, including a lemon pepper and garlic marinated Coho salmon. All of their offerings are sustainably-caught – by entering the product code from the box into their website you can trace your entrée back to its fishermen and vessel. The different offerings are perfect for keeping your freezer pantry stocked with well-sourced seafood options for those times when you just can’t make it to the market.
When you buy salmon from us you know exactly where it is coming from. It’s amazing to think about all the different places where you’ll find salmon at Bi-Rite: as part of our sustainable sushi program, grilled daily in our chef’s case, as seasonal entrees in our packaged meals, smoked and ready for a bagel from our delis and Catering, and fresh in our seafood case. We are proud to say that we have done all the work to let you feel good about making wild Pacific salmon your go to fish all year round.