The Five Species of Salmon in the Pacific

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

  • Sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, length to 84 cm/34", the most valuable commercial species. At spawning time the male is bright red and has developed a hooked lower jaw (a characteristic of salmon in this genus) and a somewhat humped back; the female is also red. The name ‘sockeye’ has nothing to do with the fish’s eyes; it is a corruption of an American Indian name.

  • Chinook, king or spring salmon, O. tshawytscha, length to 1.5 m/51", has dark spots on its dorsal and tail fins and on its back, and is second in importance commercially.

  • Chum salmon, O. keta, up to almost 1 m/3' 2" long, no dark spots on back or fins, particularly important in Canada; also called ‘dog’ salmon, because males have greatly enlarged canine-like teeth at spawning time.

  • Coho or silver salmon, O. kisutch, up to 90 cm/35" long, a deep-bodied fish with some black spots on its dorsal fin and the upper part of the tail fin; the flesh cans well, but this species is of secondary importance.

  • Humpback or pink salmon, O. gorbuscha, up to 75 cm/30" long, so the smallest of the group, of considerable value on the Asian side of the N. Pacific. This species has been introduced to the N. Atlantic.