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Frozen pink salmon

Pink salmon are the most numerous species of salmon in the Pacific Ocean. They are found in the Northern Pacific. Each summer these salmon return in latge numbers to the coastal waters of Alaska, Northern Russia and British Columbia after spending two years out growing in the Ocean.They form large shoals as they wait before returning to their birth rivers to spawn. It is not far from shore that the local fishermen go out to catch the salmon in a fishery that is very well managed to ensure conservation of the salmon. The scientists know how many salmon need to return to each river to allow the population to be stable ,.They make sure that this can happen by tightly controlling when and where the fishing is allowed.

The whole of the pink salmon fishing season only lasts 2 months but it is much shorter around the individual river systems often only lasting a week or so. This is a short but very busy period and in a very remote, rugged and beautiful part of the world with few people, towns or roads so the salmon must be frozen quickly after catch. Freezing the salmon immediately locks in the quality and freshness of the fish and allows the fish to be transported efficiently by sea to where it can be filleted, portioned and packed. The harvesting and freezing of the salmon plays a very important part in the local economy. Seafood is the largest non-state employer in Alaska, each small salmon fishing boat is a floating family business contributing to the state and local economies.

Alaska is sparsely populated without the necessary workforce to fillet the salmon and the most advanced machines still do not fillet pink salmon well so it is more efficient and less wasteful to fillet and portion the fish by hand. This is highly skilled and labour intensive and this is often done in China where a large skill base of fishmonger skills has been built up over many years.

Studies by Seafish, other institutes and Universities have shown that transport by sea on large vessels contributes only a very small percentage of Greenhouse Gas emissions. In fact long distance transport by sea can reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions per final product if it allows less wasteful filleting.

Why is most Pink Salmon Filleted and portioned in China?

There is a great deal of work to do to prepare the whole salmon to give salmon portions the plants in China are able to do this with maximum efficiency reducing wastage to a minimum which also maximizes the value of the fish which in turn is key in keeping Greenhouse Gas emissions as low as possible. As a wild caught fish the quality and appearance of pink salmon will naturally vary, the plants in China handle large quantities and select the texture, colour and quality of the fish and supply customers all over the world with the products they want.The skills and knowledge of the customer’s demands in the Chinese plants keeps the costs at the lowest level possible and this allows customers all over the world to enjoy the taste of wild pink salmon. 

When the frozen salmon arrives in China it is kept frozen until it is needed to make fillets or portions. When it is needed the frozen salmon is very carefully brought up in temperature to just below freezing point. It is then filleted by an expert salmon filleter. The salmon fillets still have bones that need to be removed by hand, then the fillets are trimmed and portioned. All this has to be done very quickly in temperature controlled rooms so as to keep the temperature of the portions below 5oC. The salmon portions are

Salmon bone removal

then quickly frozen back down to below -18oC. The rapid handling of the salmon at cold temperatures and its quick return to cold storage temperatures is vital to maintain the freshness and quality of the salmon.

Once the salmon portions are frozen they are usually individually sealed in a vacuum pouch that will protect the now exposed frozen flesh until the portions are ready to be cooked. The portions are bagged and packed and then loaded into a frozen container that goes on a large vessel to travel to the US or Europe by sea.

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