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Sitka, AK


Frozen-at-Sea Alaskan Salmon 

Pink Salmon: Unloved and Undervalued


Pink Salmon: Unloved and Undervalued

dylan lared

Most pink salmon comes in a can. It was put there by a man.  

It was also usually caught in very large nets with many thousands of its brethren and sloshed around on its way to the processor/cannery. I'm not a seiner and won't disparage their product - they certainly feed much more of the world than we lowly troll fisherman. Yet, part of the reason I sell troll caught fish is that I firmly believe when you catch a fish with a hook and a line and you carefully care for it within minutes of landing it you are bound to have a superior product. I mean, you hang out in a giant net/hold of a big boat and let's see how you taste.

And this got me thinking a while ago about pink salmon. See, I was a champion sneerer when it came to pink salmon, especially as a child. "Humpies stink", I would say whenever my parents offered that I start cleaning pinks and earning my keep. (Humpy is the fond colloquialism we have for pink salmon) And then a few years ago, fishing with my stepdad, I was shocked to find out that he actually liked them. 

(me) "you like humpies?"

(him) "they are like really tasty trout."  

(me) "but they stink." 

(him) "Stop being such a racist, speciesist, whatever." 

So I did it. I cowboyed up. I ate one. 

And it was pretty good.  

So then I kind of got into it. I started filleting them and smoking them to take back to college with me for snackfood. And they were actually fantastic. A whole fillet, smoked over an alder fire for eight or nine hours, lightly peppered. That's some good stuff. 

So why are they virtually worthless? The whole reason I could fillet as many as I wanted and smoke them for myself was that it was hardly worth the time it took to process them - we essentially gave them away whenever we tried to sell them. This, I believe, is the power of reverse branding. Whatever strange, cosmic force it is that convinces people a particular kind of thing is intrinsically better - godtouched - seems to be capable of doing the reverse - rendering another thing unclean, untouchable. Maybe it's just that scarcity is the measure of value. There are a lot of pinks out there. Therefore they must not be that great.  

The thing is, with the proper care and attention they are really a very viable alternative to other seafood. They will never contend with King salmon in my heart or stomach, but they have a place far above the one they've been relegated to. I don't always feel great about the prices I need to charge for King and even Silver salmon. I believe they are fair, but I also know that in my own other life - the one in which I am a philosophy student and bike mechanic - I could never afford them. There are a lot of people who I would like to be able to bring an affordable fish that has endured no compromise in care or attention. Just because a fish is affordable doesn't mean we shouldn't process it with same attention to detail as all the other fish. 

I'm still working on my marketing campaign to bring pink salmon to the world. I'm thinking of 'the people's fish', but I'm not attached. I hope that soon everyone can have access to affordable, wild caught, Alaskan salmon. And if you are confronted with one on your dinner plate, please don't be a speciesist and give it a try.