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Pink salmon: a tasty, cheap and sustainable choice

Fresh Pink Salmon image from Bigstock

Wild salmon are a critical part of ocean, river, lake, and forest ecosystems. They provide food for everything from whales to eagles to bears and even help fertilize the forests along the shores, rivers, and lakes where they live and spawn.

Yes, everything is interconnected. If the wild salmon dwindle and die, next come whales, bears, and our forests. And where will that leave us?”

— David Suzuki, from Everything Under the Sun

As more and more Vancouver shoppers turn to local and organic foods, they’re demanding that seafood choices also fit the bill. This summer, wild pink salmon may just be your best bet if you want to save money, eat healthy and do what’s right for the ocean.

This year, with wild sockeye runs expected to be low (a near record-low sockeye salmon run for Skeena River fisheries has already cut off the catch in B.C.) the more plentiful pink is a good choice. Pink salmon is the smallest salmon and has a light rose flesh and a mild, delicate flavour. 

It’s not only delicious, it’s also versatile, tasting great with marinades and rubs. Add in the cheaper price tag compared to sockeye and the fact that millions of pink salmon are predicted to return to the south coast of B.C. this summer, and the pink has a lot going for it.

Fresh pink is plentiful during July and August and canned and processed options are available year-round. Most pink gets canned, but you can also get fresh or frozen, either whole or as steaks, chunks or “roasts” (headed, gutted and tailed). Local markets in Canada get most of the fresh and frozen pink salmon. The United Kingdom is the major importer of Canadian canned pink, followed by New Zealand and Australia. Only a small number of frozen pink are exported.

With its high protein and low saturated fat and cholesterol, salmon is a great choice for the health conscious consumer. It’s a good source of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which medical research says may reduce the risk of heart disease.

To eat sustainably, you have to do a bit of sleuth work on where your pink salmon comes from and how it’s caught. For environmental reasons, we recommend not buying open net-pen farmed salmon. Salmon farming has been associated with environmental concerns, including water pollution, chemical use, and parasite and disease transfer.

At the David Suzuki Foundation, we’re part of SeaChoice, which promotes sustainable seafood options. That means you can feel confident knowing fish numbers are plentiful, the fishery is well managed, unintended catch – or bycatch – is minimized and the impacts in catching the fish on habitat and ecosystem are gentle. “Best Choice” options are those that best meet these criteria.

While salmon are tasty additions to our diets, they are also extremely important for ecosystems. There are thousands of streams in our Pacific North Coast where salmon are found. They spend most, or part, of their life cycle in the ocean but return to freshwater to spawn. When migrating through freshwater and marine habitats, salmon transfer nutrients from marine to land ecosystems, and are essential for species from coastal bears, to eagles, to wolves.

So this summer, consider adding pink salmon to your meal plan. It’s healthy, delicious and you can feel good about eating sustainably. You’ll be playing a small part in keeping our oceans healthy. You can go a step further and sign the David Suzuki Foundation’s pledge to eat sustainable seafood.

Pink Salmon Cooking Tips

Always buy the freshest pink salmon and use it the same day or next day. Look for firm shiny flesh, tightly adhering scales, and only faint aroma.

Pink salmon are smaller and less fatty than other species. This fish works well with strong spices and sauces, or as a substitute for canned tuna.


Tangy Sambal Salmon Cakes

Photo by Karianne Blank

A rich, spicy, piquant version of the classic salmon cake. Irresistible.

Prep time 2 hours. Serves 4.


2 cups cooked pink salmon, flaked into small pieces and deboned

2 Tbs plain yogurt

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

2 Tbs finely chopped green onions

2 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp Sambal Badjak or Sambal Oelek (or another tangy chili sauce)

2 tsp curry powder

Pinch of salt


½ cup flour

2 eggs well beaten

1 cup panko bread crumbs


3 Tbs mayonnaise

1 tsp Sambal Badjak (hot chili paste) or to taste)


Combine salmon, yogurt, garlic, green onion, fish sauce, Sambal, curry powder, salt, and 2 tablespoons of beaten egg mixture. Mix well. Form into tight balls and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Roll balls in flour, then dip into remaining beaten egg, and roll in panko bread crumbs.

Deep fry until golden brown.

Serve with dip. Enjoy!

This recipe is courtesy of SeaChoice ambassador and B.C. fisherman, John Mauriks.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pink Salmon

Photo by Karianne Blank

A quick and easy meal with a bold savoury flavour.

Prep time 10 minutes. Serves 2.


2 very fresh pink salmon fillets

1 Tbs whole grain mustard

2 finely chopped green onions

1/2 tsp brown sugar

2 or 4 wide slices of prosciutto


Thoroughly mix the mustard, green onions, and sugar in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350F. Rinse fillets and pat dry.

Place slices of prosciutto on baking sheet. (If slices are short, use two per fillet placed end-to-end.) Make sure prosciutto is long is enough to wrap around top of the fillet. Place a fillet skin-side down in the centre of the slice of prosciutto. Spoon mustard mixture over fillet. Wrap prosciutto over top.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until fillet can be flaked with a fork and prosciutto is lightly browned on top.

Serve with fresh summer salad. Enjoy!

Words by Theresa Beer, Communications Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation

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