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Five Species of Alaskan Wild Salmon: King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, Coho Salmon, Pink Salmon, & Chum Salmon.


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Wild Alaskan Salmon


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Alaskan Wild Salmon Species

The five species of Alaska salmon are members of a large family of fish known as salmonidae which are abundant throughout the temperate zones of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Salmon and their salmonidae relatives, which include Atlantic salmon, are active and aggressive predators who demand the high levels of oxygen most commonly found in cold, rushing streams, estuaries, and the upper levels of
the ocean.

Pacific salmon occur from California north along the Pacific coast throughout the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean waters adjacent to Alaska. Alaska’s wild salmon resource is the greatest in the world.

Alaska salmon belong to the genus Oncorhynchus, a name formed by combining two Greek words, “onco” meaning hook or barb, and “rhyno”, meaning nose. The scientific names for each of the five species were given during the exploration of Siberia, and reflect the native vernacular names for the fish. Thus, we have:


Scientific name Common name Other names
Oncorhynchus gorbusha Pink Humpy, Humpback
Oncorhynchus keta Chum Keta
Oncorhynchus kisutch Coho Silver
Oncorhynchus nerka Sockeye Red
Oncorhynchus tschawytscha King Chinook

Alaska salmon are anadromous, that is, they spawn in fresh water and the young migrate to the sea where they mature. The timing of spawning and migration varies among the five species, but they all need abundant, pure, fresh water for spawning. The fresh water that attracts the maturing salmon from the ocean vastness to the interior of the continent to spawn also draws the salmon to man’s doorstep.

Although the spawning characteristics of each of the five species of Alaskan Wild Salmon differ, each maintains the same timing year after year, and, with few exceptions, the mature adults return to the stream of their birth.

Salmon which will spawn in the headwaters of a river or lake system (king, coho and sockeye), arrive earlier than do the pink and chum which spawn closer to tidewater. Because salmon do not eat after they have entered fresh water, they leave the ocean heavy with the fats and nutrients on which they will subsist during their freshwater phase. The longer and more rigorous the freshwater trip, the more fat the fish will carry as he leaves the ocean. A Yukon River king headed for spawning grounds 2,400 miles (4,000 kilometers) away and 2,200 feet (670 meters) above sea level near Lake Teslin will enter the river an unusually rich, vigorous fish.

How salmon return so unerringly from mid-ocean to a stream which may be only a trickle hundreds of miles from tidewater is not fully understood by biologists. Except where humans have interfered, however, the salmon returning to the various river systems and streams of Alaska are unique species which may mingle in the ocean and even in the estuary, but return faithfully to the gravel from which they emerged two to six years earlier. Fish that enter fresh water early in the season are more brightly colored than those that arrive later, but all salmon turn darker as the time to spawn approaches. Pronounced morphological changes take place, particularly in the spawning male. The female selects a suitable patch of gravel, and excavates the nest. When she is ready, she allows the male to fertilize her eggs as she deposits them in the gravel.

Five to seven months after spawning, the young salmon fry emerge from the gravel where the spawning pair deposited and fertilized the eggs the fall before. Some of the fry will go to sea almost immediately, while others, such as sockeye, king and coho will remain in streams and lakes for a year or more. When the fry migrate toward the sea, they undergo certain changes which prepare them for life in salt water; during this stage of life they are called smolts. In the estuary, where salt and fresh water mix and food is abundant, a smolt may double or even triple its weight before venturing westward into the Gulf of Alaska or Bering Sea. Depending on the species, the salmon may go within a few miles of the Kamchatka Peninsula which extends southward from Siberia toward the western tip of the Aleutian Islands.

Growth rates in the ocean are no less astonishing than those in the estuary. A two-inch pink salmon which leaves the estuary and moves offshore in early-to-mid summer can return slightly more than a year later as a two-foot, five-pound adult. Pink salmon spend a year in ocean waters; other species may spend four, five or even six years in the ocean pastures growing to prodigious size. Any "125 pound plus" king salmon landed in Southeastern Alaska is thought to have spent seven years in the ocean.

The cold, clear waters off Alaska's 34,000 mile coastline are the world's greatest resource for natural, wild salmon. There, the five species of Alaska Salmon mature in an unmatched natural environment that provides them with superior flavor, color, and texture. This makes Alaska Salmon the salmon of choice of foodservice operators throughout the world. Quick frozen within hours of being harvested at the peak of its lifecycle, Alaska Salmon offers your foodservice customers these unique advantages:


Alaska Salmon has a richer color, firmer texture, and better flavor than industrially-produced salmon. This natural superiority results from a life spent feeding on the sea's natural foods while swimming against the strong currents of the cold, clean North Pacific.


The Alaska seafood industry has perfected advanced quick-freezing technology which is unique in its ability to capture the fresh-caught flavor of the salmon while preserving the fish's firm texture and rich color.


Fresher-frozen natural Alaska Salmon is available year-round in portion-controlled sizes in a variety of packaging and product forms. Fresher-frozen products minimize shrink and keep margins high.


Natural Alaska Salmon is an excellent source of high quality protein, and contains predominantly healthy unsaturated fats.

Serving size: 3oz. (85 grams) BCooked, Edible Portion
  King Sockeye Silver Pink Chum
Calories 200 180 160 130 130
Protein (g) 21 23 23 22 22
Fat (g) 11.5 9 7 4 4
Carbohydrate (g) 0 0 0 0 0
Sodium (mg) 50 50 50 75 50
Potassium (mg) 360 410 470 350 450
Cholesterol (mg) 70 60 40 55 80

Note: Nutritional value for salmon will vary 1-2% in protein and fat content from these average values, depending upon the maturity of the fish.


There are five species of Alaska Salmon, each with its own distinct characteristics.


Largest and least abundant of all 5 species.
4 to 7 year life cycle.
Average weight: approximately 20 lbs.
Prized for red flesh, rich flavor, high oil content, and firm texture.
Most often served in upscale, white tablecloth restaurants.


Known for its deep red flesh, Sockeye retains its color, firm texture, and distinctive flavor when cooked or processed.
4 to 6 year life cycle.
Average weight: approximately 6 lbs.
Has long been the salmon of choice of the quality conscious Japanese market.


Second largest of 5 species.
3 to 4 year life cycle.
Average weight: approximately 12 lbs.
One of the most commonly used species in foodservice.
Known for their orange-red flesh, superior texture, and excellent eye appeal.


Strong foodservice demand; used in almost every segment.
3 to 5 year life cycle.
Average weight: approximately 8 lbs.
Known for their firm pink flesh and moderate fat content which results in their delicate flavor.


Smallest and most abundant of 5 species.
2 year life cycle.
Average weight: 2 to 3 lbs.
Known for their bright, rose-colored flesh and delicate flavor. Their abundant supply makes them an attractive value.


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