Types and Sources of Products

The term “salmon” refers to a variety of species that are all “anadromous” fish, which means they are born in fresh water rivers and streams, migrate to the ocean to mature and spend much of their adult life, and then return to the streams and rivers in which they were born to spawn (reproduce) and then die. Six types of salmon are consumed in the United States including: Atlantic, Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon. Of these, five species (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye) are harvested from wild fisheries in the Pacific Ocean and one type, Atlantic salmon, is primarily farmed raised.

Salmon has been the third most frequently consumed seafood product in the U.S. for most of the past decade. Average consumption has consistently been around 2 pounds per person per year, surpassed only by shrimp and canned tuna. Two-thirds of the salmon consumed in the United States is farmed and imported primarily from Norway, Chile and Canada. A small amount of salmon is farm raised in Maine and Washington State. One-third of the salmon consumed in the U.S. is caught from the wild by U.S. commercial fishermen who harvested between 600 and 900 million pounds annually over the past decade. The largest portion of the U.S. harvest by weight is Pink salmon, followed by Sockeye, Chum, Coho and Chinook. Facts about salmon species commonly consumed in the U.S. are provided below.

Salmon Facts

Atlantic salmon

  • The majority of salmon currently consumed in the U.S. is farm raised Atlantic salmon from Canada, Chile and Norway.
  • Farmed Atlantic salmon is primarily sold as fresh or frozen dressed fish, fillets or steaks.
  • Commercial fishing for wild Atlantic salmon is prohibited in the U.S. because wild population levels in the eastern U.S. are extremely low.

Pink salmon

  • Almost all Pink salmon consumed in the U.S. is harvested in Alaska.
  • Pink salmon is primarily sold as a canned product.

Sockeye salmon

  • Sockeye salmon is caught by U.S. fishermen, mainly in Alaskan waters.
  • Sockeye salmon is sold fresh, frozen and canned.

Chum salmon

  • Chum salmon are primarily harvested by U.S. fishermen in Alaska.
  • Wild fish populations in Alaska are supported by the release of hatchery raised fish.
  • Chum salmon are sold fresh, frozen and canned

Coho salmon

  • Most Coho salmon is caught in Alaskan waters, and some is imported from Canada and Chile.
  • Most Coho salmon is sold fresh or frozen.

Chinook (King) salmon

  • Chinook salmon are commercially harvested in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and in small amounts off California.
  • Most Chinook salmon is sold fresh or frozen.

Product Forms

All types of salmon are available in one of three product forms: fresh, frozen or canned. Most of the salmon consumed in the U.S. is either fresh or frozen and the predominant market form in retail stores and restaurants is fillets or steaks. About one fourth or less of the wild domestic salmon catch is canned, and most canned salmon is either pink, chum, or sockeye. Some imported canned salmon is also available in U.S. markets. Smoked salmon is also produced in the U.S. and some is imported. Cold smoked salmon, marketed as "lox" or "nova lox", is a lightly salted, smoked and partially cooked ready-to-eat product that is sold in retail stores and restaurants as an appetizer or as an ingredient in other dishes. Hot smoked salmon is also lightly salted and fully cooked. Most smoked products are made from either Atlantic, King or Coho salmon.

Nutrition Information

All types of salmon provide a good source of high quality protein and the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The fat and omega-3 content varies from one species to another. Total fat content ranges from approximately 4 to 11 grams per 3 ounce cooked serving. Omega-3 fatty acid content ranges from 700 to 1,800 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounce cooked serving. A summary of the fat and omega-3 content of the six commercially important salmon species is provided in the chart below. Salmon is also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals. Canned salmon that contains bones is also a good source of calcium.

Salmon Species Total Fat 
(Grams per 3 ounce cooked portion)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids(Milligrams per 3 ounce cooked portion) Cholesterol 
(Milligrams per 3 ounce cooked portion)
Atlantic, Farmed 10.5 1,800 54
King, Wild 11.3 1,700 72
Coho, Wild 3.7 900 47
Sockeye, Wild 5.7 800 54
Chum, Wild 4.1 800 81
Pink, Wild 4.5 700 55

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Management and Sustainability

Although Atlantic salmon are contained in the Atlantic Salmon Fishery Management Plan, they are currently being managed under a federal Recovery Plan in close cooperation with the state of Maine, due to their listing as endangered in 2000. Recovery plans delineate actions that are thought to be necessary to recover and/or protect endangered species. Today, U.S. fishery regulations prohibit commercial and recreational harvest of sea-run Atlantic salmon in state and federal waters. Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the United States must comply with environmental and health standards, and U.S. producers and buyers are involved in improving best practices for aquaculture worldwide.

All management of the Alaska salmon fisheries in federal waters is deferred to the State of Alaska, which is also responsible for managing the commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries for salmon in state waters. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages salmon in state waters. The salmon populations in Alaskan waters, where most of the U.S. commercial harvest occurs, are all generally considered to be healthy with no overfishing occurring. The salmon fisheries in the federal waters off Washington, Oregon, and California are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) under a different FMP. Each state manages the salmon fishery in their respective state waters. Local populations of some species of salmon native to certain river systems in California, Oregon and Washington are considered threatened and are being actively managed as necessary to preserve habitat and encourage populations to rebuild.


National Marine Fisheries Service, 2011. Fisheries of the United States 2010.
NOAA FishWatch
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Food Supply Estimates for Red Meat, Poultry and Fish.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference