Sockeye Salmon – Naknek Alaska

C100322 and C100324

The Product

General Name: Sockeye Salmon – Naknek Alaska


Alternative names: Red salmon, Bluebacks, Reds.

The fishers

Sourced from a fleet of small gillnet vessels in Bristol Bay, including Viking Queen, Olivia, Ramblin Rose, Dolphin, Farrar Sea and Decco Bay. Bristol Bay is famous worldwide for the quality of it’s salmon and beauty of it’s landscape. The vessels catch salmon and deliver the fish typically to “tender” vessels which then deliver it to canneries in Naknek and Egegik. Bristol Bay has the additional advantage of not using hatcheries. : Bristol Bay salmon is wholly wild.


Port: Naknek

Authority: Alaskan Fishing authorities

Seasonal information: Starting in June with peak daily catches in mid-July and some laggard runs in some rivers in August

The Method


Gillnetting as a method varies in it's sustainability impact depending on where and how it is deployed. A gillnet basically catches a fish by the gill which means it will allow smaller fish and juveniles of the species to slip through and in the case of the latter reproduce or not be discarded. Gillnets can be set as semi permanent nets, they can vary in size quite considerably, be left for long periods of time OR they can be small and deployed during a short catch period and hauled in regularly. In some artisan tuna fisheries for example gillnets can have a high by-catch impact on dolphins and porpoises and are poorly regulated. In the traditional sardine fisheries of Northern Spain or in the Alaskan salmon fisheries gillnets are used as a highly targeted and controlled method. Driftnets are a form of gillnet which can be very destructive as they are left to drift on the oceans to catch what comes and picked up weeks later - with some nets been lost and continuing to entrap sea life.

The Species

Red salmon

One of the amazing sights of the world, the annual Sockeye run happens each summer when, drawn by natural forces, the salmon return to the rivers which gave them birth from the wide open Pacific Ocean. They fight their way upstream against powerful currents, waterfalls and rapids, determined to spawn. Sockeye typically stick to rivers with a tributary to a lake. Once home, sockeye lay thousands of fertilized eggs in the gravel and promptly die, their carcasses providing food for bears, otters and eagles and returning nutrients to the rivers and rainforests for the next generation of salmon. Sockeye salmon are distinguished by their bright red and rich fillets, due to a feed rich in crustaceans from the estuaries and coastal shores. Bristol Bay is home to the most spectacular sockeye salmon run in Alaska and is not dependent on hatcheries.

The Location:



Eco-ratings/certifications: Both Marine Stewardship Council and FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management certified. Sustainable exploitation of the resources is written into the constitution of Alaska. Green rated by Marine Conservation Society.

Resource Management: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in conjunction with the Canada-US Pacific Salmon Commission, manages this fishery. Click here for the most recent Salmon Fishery Management Plans.

Local Management: /

Monitoring & Traceability: Fish season is highly controlled with fishing allowed over a limited period during the salmon run to allow sufficient qunatities to get through and lay their eggs. The policing and counting of the fishing is done literally in the midlle of the fishing itself.

Conservation Measures: As a fishery based specifically on a “run” – the fishery is managed in quite a unique way: Every day, biologists count the salmon running into each river system as the salmon swim into protected spawning areas. Each commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay is constantly in contact with the biologists who are informing the fisherman whether or not they may put their nets in the water. All told the Alaskan salmon fishery is very well managed with strict annual catch limits, detailed science, stock levels managed with the precautionary principle in mind, strict monitoring and catch records, limitations of licensed fishing vessels, minimum mesh size and area closures for conservation purposes.

By-catch/discard: Incidental catch of other salmon species can occur but this is rare as the different salmon species have different runs. Fishing is only activated during the salmon run itself so in very short time periods, it is highly selective and targetted.

Endangered Species: Some interaction from the gillnet fishery but this is very low. Practically nets are set during the salmon run, with on-site policing and abrupt control of catch limits meaning nets are actively managed not left passively in the water.

Eco-system damage: None

How is it made?

The vast majority of chilled or fresh salmon is farmed salmon. Wild salmon is nutritionally superior with less saturated fat, more minerals and vitamins and more Omega 3 and that’s because wild salmon is not cooped in a very small space. It feeds naturally, a high quality wild diet and not price-determined feed pellets; it is not doused in treatments to stop disease and dyed a different colour to make it look appealing.

Production: Packed and cooked in the can – this method is better from a nutritional point of view but can leave a slight cooked white egg-like substance in the tins. Nothing added, the oil you see in the water

Social factors: Fishing licenses are widely and equitably distributed to local small scale fishers from Alaska. Gillnet boats are small, often crewed by family members. Processed and packed in the USA.

Political factors: Yes – why on earth did Alaska vote for Trump – it seems like such a nice place! Oh well you can’t be perfect…