North Carolina Sea Grant
Mariner's Menu

Mariner's Menu

October 1, 2010 | Barry Nash

seafood traditions

Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), highly esteemed and awe-inspiring due to their leaping abilities to reach spawning streams, are often called the “king of fishes.”

They have long, sleek spindle-like bodies – rounded, broad in the middle and tapered at each end. Their heads are small, about one-fifth of their body length.

There are three populations of wild Atlantic salmon: North American, European, and Baltic. The North American group historically ranged from northern Quebec southeast to Newfoundland and southwest to Long Island Sound. Most adults migrate to feeding areas off the west coast of Greenland.

Atlantic salmon spend their entire adult life in the open ocean. Juvenile Atlantic salmon spend their first two years in fresh water rivers and streams.  Their life span is 4 to 10 years.

Since the early 1950s, the population of wild Atlantic salmon population has been very low, and commercial fishing for the species is prohibited. Almost all of the Atlantic salmon sold in the United States comes from aquaculture operations.

The United States’ cultured salmon industry is relatively new and much smaller than similar operations around the world. Norway, Scotland and Chile produce more than 1 billion pounds of ocean-farmed Atlantic salmon each year.

Atlantic salmon aquaculture operations in the United States are based in Maine and Washington state and meet high environmental and health standards.

Maine’s commercial production began in the late 1970s with the first commercial harvest in 1979. Since then, the eastern North America industry has grown to produce more than 70.5 million pounds annually.

For more information, go to NOAA Fish Watch.

Contributed by Barry Nash

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