Do you consciously buy wild salmon instead of farm raised? “Wild” will probably be more expensive; but will probably taste better; with less fat, it will need more careful cooking to avoid drying out. It probably comes from Alaska. We’ve lost Atlantic salmon. And catches are down in the northwest — Oregon, Washington.
I recently re-read “Mountains in the Clouds: a search for the wild salmon,” by Bruce Brown. Originally published in 1982, it’s outdated but is still an interesting environmental history. I probably originally bought and read it while visiting my sister, Marylee, and her husband Norval, when they were living on a beautiful coastal property overlooking the Pacific, near Tahola and working on the Quinault Indian Reservation.
Salmon are born in rivers, they spend their lives in the ocean and return to their home river to spawn. Different species have characteristics associated with their river. There are several Pacific types, Chinook (King) is sometimes considered the best. You might also find Sockeye (red), Coho (silver), Pink and Chum. I don’t remember seeing the last two but will pay more attention now. Last night we had some delicious Sockeye ($19.95 a pound).
“Mountain in the Clouds” documents the decline in the Washington State salmon fishery. Today most commercial wild salmon come from Alaskan waters; although there is tribal and recreational salmon fishing in WA. The decline of wild salmon is another chapter in the story of our destruction of the natural world. Think American bison, passenger pigeons, Atlantic Cod.
The decline of the Pacific salmon is the result of several factors. Intensive logging on the Olympic Peninsula poisoned streams and rivers. Runoff from clear cut slopes, logging roads, and sawdust polluted waterways eliminating oxygen. I saw the landscape devastation from logging on the Quinault Reservation; I need to pull out the photographs of those trips. I have a book from the period about logging in the Gray’s Harbor area.
Dams on various rivers have cut off salmon spawning. Although laws may have required fish ladders, they were not always built. Courts sometimes allowed hatcheries instead of ladders. But hatchery fish may compete with and negatively impact wild fish.
Nuclear power plants have had an impact. Increased, more efficient fishing, may have contributed to fewer fish spawning, living and growing. A side issue is the conflict between Native American fishing rights and white sportsmen recreational fishing.
I always like single food books, caviar, blue fish, salt, tomatoes, cod, lobster, and now a salmon re-read. My sister now lives outside Olympia. Norval buys local salmon and smokes and dries it, I’ve thought about doing that. We like smoked salmon. I also will be more conscious about the salmon we buy in the market. Not just wild or farmed? But the species?