Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish

Oncorhynchus nerka

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — All applicable methods
Capture area — North East Pacific (FAO 67)
Stock area — North Pacific
Stock detail — Alaska and British Columbia
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and or FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Programme
Picture of Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The Alaskan and British Columbian Sockeye fisheries have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as well-managed and sustainable fisheries. All Alaskan salmon are certified as responsibly managed for sustainable use to the Alaska FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Programme.


Pacific salmon occur from California north along the Pacific coast throughout the Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean waters adjacent to Alaska. The five species (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink and Sockeye) are members of a large family of fish known as salmonidae, which are abundant throughout the temperate zones of the northern and southern hemispheres. Pacific salmon are a shorter lived species and much more prolific breeders than Atlantic salmon.
Sockeye salmon are one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon, measuring 18 to 31 inches in length and weighing 4-15 pounds. Sea-going sockeye salmon have iridescent silver flanks, a white belly, and a metallic green-blue back, giving them their Blueback name. Sockeye salmon are found in the eastern Pacific from the Klamath river in Oregon, to Point Hope in NW Alaska with the largest populations being in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska and the Fraser river in Canada. In the western Pacific sockeye are found from the Anadyr river in Siberia to Hokkaido in Japan albeit Japan not considered by IUCN to be part of its natural range. In common with all Pacific salmon species, most sockeye salmon are anadromous and spend one to four years in fresh water and one to three years in the ocean (those sockeye that live all their lives in landlocked waterways in freshwater are called Kokanee). The typical lifespan of the sockeye is five years albeit can be three to seven years. In Alaska most sockeye return to their natal streams to spawn in June and July. The females lay a relatively small number of eggs (2000 5000) and both females and males die within a few weeks of spawning.

Stock information

Stock Area

North Pacific

Stock information

The sockeye is not currently considered to be overfished, and globally populations are healthy. Although a study by Goslin et al in 2012 found that 27% of extant populations of sockeye salmon are at risk of extinction. The greatest number and concentration of threatened populations is in the southern part of the North American range and is primarily as a result of overfishing, freshwater habitat loss, dams, hatcheries and changing ocean conditions. Alaskan sockeye stocks are currently generally healthy, albeit individual population trends are diverse. There are no Alaskan populations listed under the USA’s Endangered Species Act, but there are two populations in the Pacific Northwest of the USA that are listed as threatened following several decades of dramatic declines in abundance there. Nevertheless, recent reports from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate that sockeye in the Pacific Northwest may be on the way to recovery, with the 2014 run on the Columbia river showing encouraging trends. Recovery plans have been implemented in the Pacific Northwest, including hatchery programmes, and removal or modification of dams, restoration of degraded habitat and improved water quality. Large-scale hatchery programmes are in operation in Alaska, and there are concerns over the adverse impact of these hatchery fish on wild stocks.


Sockeye salmon are managed through a combination of various international, federal, tribal, and state actions. The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission is an international organisation involved in managing Pacific salmon stocks, and comprises the USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation. The Pacific Salmon Commission is a treaty between Canada and the USA covering the management of the Pacific salmon. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is a US federal body that sets management plans for the 3 - 200 nm ocean zone, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) manages the Alaskan fresh water and the 0 - 3 nm zone based upon regulations set by the Alaskan Board of Fisheries. Management measures include the timing of fisheries, the size of gear, area and retention restrictions, and a limited entry programme. ADFG scientists monitor spawning escapement ie. the number of fish that escape the fishery and return to their natal stream, and adjust the fishery restrictions accordingly during the season. The Alaska Pacific salmon fisheries occur within US territorial waters adjacent to the coast of the State of Alaska, and are managed principally by ADFG. The Alaska state constitution (Article VIII, Section 4) requires the management, conservation and protection of the salmon resource and its habitat. Today, this constitutional requirement, coupled with effective management, has contributed to the healthy status of the salmon fisheries. In collaboration with ADFG, the Alaska Board of Fisheries allocates salmon to the various gear users. Management measures implemented include: establishing open and closed seasons, in season (realtime) management by virtue of Emergency Orders, setting quotas, bag limits, harvest limits (after escapement goals are reached), sex and size limitations, establishing the methods and means employed in the pursuit, capture and transport of fish, watershed and habitat improvement, management, conservation, protection, use, disposal, propagation and stocking of fish, regulating commercial, sport, guided sport, subsistence, and personal use fishing as needed for the conservation, development, and sustainable utilisation of fisheries. All Pacific wild salmon (pink, chum, coho, sockeye and Chinook) caught in waters off Alaska is from fisheries certified to the FAO-Based Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) Certification Programme as responsibly managed for sustainable use. Following full assessment, the fisheries reached certification in 2011 and it was concluded that the Alaska salmon fisheries meet the FAO-Based RFM conformance criteria. Yearly surveillance assessments validate and ensure that the fishery continues to be managed responsibly.

Capture Information

Sockeye salmon are usually caught by gillnets and to a lesser extent purse seine nets, with lesser numbers caught by troll gear (often as by-catch in other salmon fisheries). The gear used to harvest salmon has little or no direct impact on fish habitat, and there is minimal by-catch impact on other species. The primary by-catch from the sockeye fisheries are other salmon species in view of the fact that salmon school tightly and do not mix much with other species.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Anchovy, anchovies
Arctic char
Herring or sild
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chinook, King Salmon
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Coho , Silver, White
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Fishchoice; Fishwatch; Goslin, M., Irvine J. R., Augerot, X., McHugh, P. A., Bugaev, V. F., (2012), Global extinction risk to populations of sockeye salmon; DOI:10.1371/journalpone.0034065; International Union for Conservation of Nature National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries www.nmfs.noaa/pr/species/fish/sockeyesalmon.htm; ASMI Website:;