The management of Alaska’s salmon fisheries has enabled continued strong harvests for all five of Alaskan salmon species, including the three Bumble Bee uses in our products. We use three of the five species of salmon found in Alaska in our products:
- The pink salmon is the most common salmon found in the Pacific. Catches of pink salmon have averaged around 100 million fish per year over last decade. The pink salmon is the smallest of Pacific salmon found in North America averaging between 3.5 and 5 lbs and measuring between 20 and 25 inches in length.
- The sockeye salmon, also known as red or sometimes the blueback, is the next most common salmon with catches averaging around 40 million fish per year over the last decade. Sockeye weigh between 4 and 15 lbs and measure from 18 to 31 inches in length. Sea-going sockeye salmon have iridescent silver flanks, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue top, giving them their ‘blueback’ name. They get their blueback name from the sea-going sockeye that have metallic green-blue tops . As sockeye return up river to their spawning grounds, their bodies turn bright red giving them their other common name.
- The third species of salmon we can is the Keta, or chum salmon. Keta or chum salmon average just over two feet in length and weigh between 10 and 13 lbs. About 20 million fish per year have been caught over the last decade.
While the lifecycle of each salmon species is a little different, there are some basic commonalities. Alaska salmon spawn in thousands of freshwater rivers and lakes across the state. After incubation and hatching, the young migrate to the ocean swimming thousands of miles in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska as they mature to adulthood. After taking 2 – 4 years, depending upon species, to reach adulthood, their instincts drive them to return to their exact place of birth to spawn, maintaining the same timing during the summer year after year.
As salmon prepare to return to freshwater spawning ground, they build up reserves of fat and nutrients to carry them through their journey upstream. It is at this time, just prior to entering freshwater, that the salmon are harvested. The salmon harvest is seasonal lasting from about May through September for the species we source. The key salmon fisheries are located off the southern and southwestern coasts of Alaska.
Prior to each fishing season, fisheries managers use the latest available scientific research to establish the numbers of fish that can be caught without damaging the health of the individual species or their habitat. The salmon fishing season is not opened until local fisheries managers determine that enough fish have passed upstream to lay eggs (known as escapement) to sustain the stock. After sufficient numbers of fish have escaped capture, managers will radio to the waiting boats that they can begin catching fish. The fishery is closed when the established total allowable catch is met.