Salmon

Salmon

Salmon

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Wild Alaskan salmon
Best
Low
High

More about Alaskan salmon

Salmon caught in Alaska (chinook/king, chum, coho, pink, sockeye) are among the better-managed fish stocks in the U.S. They are also low in contaminants.

Most Alaskan salmon populations are healthy, and fish are caught with gear that does little damage to the environment.

+-Salmon (canned)
Best
Low
High

More about Canned salmon

Canned salmon is mainly sockeye or pink from Alaska.

+-Wild salmon (CA)
OK
Low
High

More about Wild salmon

Some wild salmon are caught off California, Oregonand Washington.Because of the collapse of chinook populations and the poor state of coho salmon off California and Oregon, salmon fishing has been severely restricted for those states. Washington fisheries remain open.

Habitat damage from water diversions, dam construction and urban development all threaten salmon populations

+-Wild salmon (WA)
OK
Low

More about Wild salmon

Some wild salmon are caught off California, Oregonand Washington.Because of the collapse of chinook populations and the poor state of coho salmon off California and Oregon, salmon fishing has been severely restricted for those states. Washington fisheries remain open.

Habitat damage from water diversions, dam construction and urban development all threaten salmon populations

+-Wild salmon (OR)
OK
Low
High

More about Wild salmon

Some wild salmon are caught off California, Oregonand Washington.Because of the collapse of chinook populations and the poor state of coho salmon off California and Oregon, salmon fishing has been severely restricted for those states. Washington fisheries remain open.

Habitat damage from water diversions, dam construction and urban development all threaten salmon populations

+-Atlantic or Farmed salmon
Worst
Low

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC or Farmed SALMON

The Atlantic salmon is a popular aquaculture species. Struggling with habitat loss and other problems, the few remaining wild Atlantic salmon hatch in freshwater streams, then travel to sea but return to freshwater to spawn. Although farm-raised specimens tend to be smaller when harvested, wild salmon can grow to up to 5 feet (152 cm).

Commercial Sources

Atlantic salmon are native to the North Atlantic Ocean. In Europe, they occur from the Arctic circle to Portugal. In North America, they range from Quebec to Connecticut. Landlocked populations are distributed in Russia, North America and northern Europe. In addition, Atlantic salmon have been extensively introduced around the world.

Although a small number of wild Atlantic salmon are caught in northern Europe, farmed fish are predominant. The main sources of farmed salmon are Norway, the United Kingdom and Chile. Atlantic salmon sold in the U.S. market are primarily farmed fish from Chile and Canada.

+-Chinook salmon
Unrated
Low
High

MORE ABOUT CHINOOK SALMON

Also called king salmon, the steely gray-blue chinook is born in freshwater streams and marine inlets, then travels to sea, where it lives most of its life, until it travels back upstream to its origin, where it spawns and dies. During spawning time, the fish changes to a bright red on its sides. Chinook salmon can grow up to nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length.

Commercial Sources

Chinook salmon are native to the Arctic and North Pacific Oceans. In the eastern Pacific, they range from Alaska to California. In the western Pacific, they occur from the Bering Sea to Japan. Chinook salmon have been introduced into Europe, Central and South America and Oceania.

The main sources of chinook salmon are the United States, for wild caught fish, and Canada and New Zealand for farmed fish. Wild chinook sold in the U.S. market are primarily from the United States, while farmed chinook are mostly from Canada.

Capture Methods

Chinook salmon come from marine fisheries and fish farms. Wild fish are primarily caught with troll lines, gillnets and purse seines. Additional types of fishing gear include hooks-and-lines, weirs, pots and traps. Farmed fish are raised in net pens.

Note: Most chinook salmon is wild caught.

+-Chum salmon
Unrated
Low

MORE ABOUT CHUM SALMON

The steely gray-blue Chum salmon is born in freshwater streams and marine inlets, then travels to sea, where it lives most of its life, until it travels back upstream to its origin, where it spawns and dies. During spawning time, the fish changes to a gray-red on its sides. Chum salmon can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 meter) in length and may live up to 6 years.

Commercial Sources

Chum salmon are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, they range from Arctic Alaska to California. In the western Pacific, they are distributed from the Bering Sea to Japan and Korea.

The main sources of chum salmon are Japan and the United States.

Capture Methods

Chum salmon come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with purse seines and gillnets. Additional types of fishing gear include hooks-and-lines and traps.

+-Coho salmon
Unrated
Low
High

MORE ABOUT COHO SALMON

The steely gray-blue Coho salmon is born in freshwater streams and marine inlets, then travels to sea, where it lives most of its life, until it travels back upstream to its origin, where it spawns and dies. During spawning time, the fish changes to a bright red on its sides. Coho salmon can grow up to 3 feet (0.9 meter) in length.

Commercial Sources

Coho salmon are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, they occur from Alaska to Baja California in Mexico. In the western Pacific, they are distributed from Russia to Japan.

The main sources of coho salmon are the United States for wild caught fish and Chile and Japan for farmed fish. Wild coho sold in the U.S. market are primarily from the United States, while farmed coho are mostly from Canada.

Capture Methods

Coho salmon come from marine fisheries and fish farms. Wild fish are primarily caught with hooks-and-lines. Additional types of fishing gear include purse seines, gillnets and traps. Farmed fish are raised in net pens.

Note: Most coho salmon is wild caught.

+-Pink salmon
Unrated
Low

MORE ABOUT PINK SALMON

The smallest of the true salmon, the pink salmon is born in freshwater streams and rivers. But because of its less-refined homing instincts than its salmon relatives, it does not always return directly to its birthplace to spawn. This fish changes from blue-green to reddish or brown during spawning. It grows to 2.5 feet (76 cm) length.

Commercial Sources

Pink salmon are found in the Arctic and North Pacific Oceans. In the eastern Pacific, they occur from the Aleutian Islands to southern California. In the western Pacific, they range from the Russian Federation to Japan and Korea.

The main sources of pink salmon are the Russian Federation and the United States.

Capture Methods

Pink salmon come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with purse seines. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets, hooks-and-lines and traps.

+-Sockeye salmon
Unrated
Low
High

MORE ABOUT SOCKEYE SALMON

Sockeye salmon is born in freshwater: one type, the landlocked kokanee, spends its life in freshwater, while the ocean salmon travels out to sea only to return to its native stream to spawn. During spawning, males' heads turn a bright green and their fins brilliant red, while females change into a paler version. Ocean salmon grow larger, up to 2.5 feet (76 cm), than the kokanee.

Commercial Sources

Sockeye salmon are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, they occur from Alaska to central California. In the western Pacific, they range from the Bering Sea to northern Japan. There are landlocked populations in the United States (Alaska, Washington and Oregon States) and in Canada (British Columbia).

The main source of sockeye salmon is the United States.

Capture Methods

Sockeye salmon come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with gillnets and purse seines. Additional types of fishing gear include troll lines and traps.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Wild Alaskan salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Atlantic or Farmed salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Wild salmon (CA) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Wild salmon (WA) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Wild salmon (OR) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Salmon (canned) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Chinook salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Chum salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Coho salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Pink salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Sockeye salmon Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Eco details: 
  • Most salmon sold in U.S. supermarkets and restaurants are farmed and labeled Atlantic salmon. Most are imported from Chile and Canada. (Wild Atlantic salmon is endangered in the U.S and cannot be caught commercially.)
  • Salmon farming is associated with numerous environmental concerns, including water pollution, chemical use, parasites and disease. 
  • Wild salmon from Alaska come from a well-managed fishery and are low in contaminants. There are five species of wild salmon from Alaska: chinook, chum, coho, pink, and sockeye. All come from well-managed fisheries and are low in contaminants.
  • Arctic char, a member of the salmon family, comes primarily from eco-friendly farms.