This summer, think pink. Salmon, that is.


“Salmon is the lifeblood of coastal ecosystems, providing food for people, bears, and birds, and fertilizer for the forests. That’s a perfect example of how interconnected our web of life is.” David Suzuki, from Everything Under the Sun.

top photo: by Karianne Blank 

Summer’s here and with it, the salmon barbecue season. We often turn to the famous B.C. sockeye as our first choice. But its often overlooked cousin, the wild pink salmon, may just be your best bet this summer, especially if you want to do what’s right for your pocketbook and the ocean. Pink salmon is the smallest salmon and has a light rose flesh and a mild, delicate flavour. This year, with wild sockeye runs expected to be low, the more plentiful pink is a particularly good option. And it’s yummy and versatile, tasting delicious with marinades and rubs, and less expensive than sockeye.


Fresh pink, known as oncorhynchus gorbuscha by biologists and sometimes called humpback by fishermen, is plentiful during July and August and canned and processed products 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). When you’re buying salmon burgers, sausages or marinated fillets, there’s a good chance they’re made with pink salmon. With flash freezing techniques being so advanced, it’s hard sometimes to tell the difference between a frozen fish and its fresh counterpart. 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.


Salmon is high in protein and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it ideal for the health conscious consumer. It’s also 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.


The David Suzuki Foundation, is part of, which promotes sustainable seafood options. That means you can feel confident knowing the stock is abundant, the fishery is well managed, unintended catch, or bycatch, is minimized and the impacts on the habitat and ecosystem are gentle. “Best Choice” options are those that best meet these criteria. Millions of pink salmon are predicted to return to the south coast of B.C. this summer.


While salmon are tasty additions to our diets, they are also extremely important for many 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. Salmon reproduce just once before death and only salmon that return to their native stream to spawn, contribute to the continuation of the stock and the local ecosystem. In an odd twist that biologists can’t even fully explain, pink salmon from southern B.C. only return as adults in odd-numbered years. But as you move northwards in the province, and into Alaska, they gradually switch to returning only in even years.


So this summer, consider adding pink salmon to your meal plan. It’s healthy, delicious and you can feel good about eating sustainably. Best, the ocean will love you for years to come.

—by Theresa Beer, David Suzuki Foundation



David Suzuki Foundation

B.C. Seafood Online


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

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 yoghurt

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

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!



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