Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) today released the first edition of its sustainability overview of fisheries that supply five commercial species of wild Pacific Salmon (Chinook, chum, coho, pink, and sockeye salmon). The overview is based on information from, SFP’s online fisheries information resource.  The report can be found here.

SFP’s analysis shows that just over half (51%) of the global supply of wild Pacific salmon comes from fisheries in good shape, while just under half (49%) comes from fisheries in need of significant improvements. While the large majority of salmon fisheries in good shape are located in Alaska, the report highlights that there are good, medium, and poor salmon fisheries in each salmon-producing region (Alaska, British Columbia, Russia, Japan, and the US Pacific Northwest). Therefore, to understand and assess salmon sustainability, buyers and consumers need to know which fishery, not just which region, their fish are coming from.

Salmon hatcheries remain a leading sustainability concern across all salmon-producing regions. While research and monitoring for hatchery impacts to wild salmon remain largely inadequate in most areas, global production of hatchery fish has increased over the past 15 years, and discussions are underway in all salmon-producing regions around further increases in hatchery production. Illegal fishing and management of mixed-stock fisheries are also sustainability concerns.

For the 2013 season, only 7% of wild salmon fisheries are currently MSC certified. An additional 39% of the global supply is in full assessment. Reassessment of Alaska salmon fisheries has experienced several delays, and a significant portion of Alaskan salmon fisheries (Prince William Sound) cannot be certified before 2014.

Commenting on the results of the report, Jim Cannon, CEO of SFP, said:

“Wild salmon sustainability has been a huge topic of concern for the seafood industry over the last year. The variation among salmon fisheries highlights the need to have detailed sourcing information, and emphasizes the role robust certification schemes can play in the market. Industry should encourage the development of improvement projects in all salmon fisheries with sustainability concerns.”

In summary, the overview urges commercial buyers and managers of wild Pacific salmon to take the following actions:

  • Establish a North Pacific-wide moratorium on hatchery expansion until such time as risks to wild populations from hatchery impacts are, at the highest level, ascertained and integrated into a precautionary management strategy.
  • Implement urgently needed measures to curb illegal fishing and trade in illegal fish in and from Russia. This includes observer programs, on-site inspection of fishing areas, catch verification, traceability measures, and intergovernmental agreements on IUU fishing.
  • Improve data transparency in all production regions. Salmon management data important for the assessment of fishery sustainability should be made publicly available, including annual escapement data, escapement goals and the models upon which they were developed, proceedings involved in the determination of catch limits, annual reporting of in-season management decision making, and hatchery evaluations.

The top-line findings of the report are as follows:

  • 21% of the total volume of Pacific salmon included in the analysis comes from fisheries in very good condition (Category A). This total includes 84% of coho, 49% of sockeye, 21% of pink, 16% of Chinook, and 4% of chum salmon global harvest volumes.
  • 30% of the total volume of Pacific salmon included in the analysis comes from fisheries that are in good condition but would benefit from improvements in management responsiveness or hatchery impacts (Category B). This total includes 65% of Chinook, 40% of sockeye, 36% of pink, and 16% each of coho and chum salmon global harvest volumes.
  • 49% of the total volume of Pacific salmon included in the analysis comes from fisheries with significant management, stock status, or hatchery impacts issues, and where significant improvements are needed (Category C). This total includes 80% of chum, 43% of pink, 18% of Chinook, and 11% of sockeye salmon global harvest volumes (no coho fisheries were included in Category C).
  • Among Alaskan salmon fisheries, irrespective of target species, 55% of harvest volume was rated as Category A, 19% as Category B, and 26% as Category C.
  • Among Russian salmon fisheries, irrespective of target species, 0.07% of harvest volume was rated as Category A, 47% as Category B, and 53% as Category C.
  • Among British Columbian salmon fisheries, irrespective of target species, 0.02% of harvest volume was rated as Category A, 96% as Category B, and 3% as Category C.
  • Of salmon fisheries occurring in the Japanese EEZ, only chum salmon fisheries were included in this analysis, and all volume was rated as Category C. 
  • Global production of hatchery fish has increased over the past 15 years from a low of 4.68 billion juvenile releases in 2001 to a high of 5.19 billion releases in 2010. A substantial decrease in releases (down to 4.16 billion) occurred in 2011 due to hatchery infrastructure damage sustained during the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Among the top three hatchery-producing regions (1. Japan, 2. Alaska, and 3. Russia), increases in the numbers of hatchery releases were particularly observed among Russian chum salmon. Increased releases of pink and chum salmon from Alaskan hatcheries have also occurred during 2009–2012.