Given that it has a better fecundity rate than the famed Caspian Sea sturgeon, is salmon the best alternative to the now endangered sturgeon sourced caviar?
By: Ringo Bones
Since the late 1990s, salmon sourced caviar – i.e. salmon roe – had been promoted as a better alternative to the endangered Caspian Sea sturgeon sourced caviar as typified by the “Sustainable Salmon Roe Caviar” advert. While salmon not only has a much better fecundity rate than the now endangered Caspian Sea sturgeon but also there are several species of salmon that are commercially fished. But which species of salmon makes the best Caspian Sea sturgeon caviar substitute?
An important food and game fish, salmon is found in northern regions. It is characterized by a long body, small cycloid scales and a small fatty fin on the dorsal surface opposite the anal fin and the absence of spines. It is related to the trout. Salmon typically swim up from the oceans or lakes into rivers or streams to spawn. They usually return to the same waters in which they were hatched; some scientists believe that the salmon find their way by smell. Some species of salmon are landlocked in lakes.
The Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, is found on both sides of the Atlantic and once was common in waters north of the Hudson River. Now it is limited to a few rivers in eastern Maine and Canada. Pollution – primarily PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls before they are banned, impassable dams near the mouth of rivers, overfishing, destruction of spawning grounds through deforestation and loss of their young in hydroelectric power plant turbines have all contributed to reducing the population of this fish.
The adult fish migrates from the ocean into rivers in its fifth year, when it weighs 8 to 16 pounds. It spawns over gravel beds, where the eggs remain buried for five to six months before the fish hatch. When the fish is about one month old, it comes out of the gravel and feeds on crustaceans. After dark vertical bands and red spots have formed on the sides, it is called parr. At the end of their third winter, when it has lost its markings and become silvery, it is called smolt. It is then 5 to 6 inches long. The smolt moves downstream to the sea, where it feeds on fishes and grows rapidly for about two years. Then as an adult, the salmon moves upstream but returns to the ocean after it has spawned. A variety of the Atlantic salmon – the landlocked salmon, Salmo salar Sebago – is found in some lakes of the northeastern United States and the Maritime Provinces.
The Pacific salmon belongs to the genus Oncorhynchus. There are five species in the eastern Pacific. The red sockeye or blueback salmon – Oncorhynchus nekra – averages 2 feet in length and weighs 3 ½ to 8 pounds with exceptional specimens reaching 100 pounds. The coho or silver salmon – Oncorhynchus kisutch – reaches 15 inches and weighs about 3 to 8 pounds. The pink or humpback salmon – Oncorhynchus gorbuscha – weighs about 6 pounds. The chum, keta or dog salmon – Oncorhynchus keta – grows to 12 pounds. The adult lives in the ocean and when mature swims up the rivers of its birth to spawn over gravel. Some species, like the king and coho, make long journeys; others like the pink and chum, move only short distances upstream. The spawning season varies from late summer to early winter. The nest, or redd, is a depression in the bottom of the stream, where the eggs incubate in gravel.
Unlike the Atlantic salmon, the Pacific salmon dies after spawning. After a period that varies with the species, the young move down the sea to feed. The pacific salmon is the most valuable fishery resource belonging to the United States. About 90-percent of U.S. production and 55-percent of world production is taken in Alaska. The Pacific salmon is also among the most popular sport fishes. The salmon is classified in the order Clupeiformes, family Salmonidae.