Seasons 52 has announced that beginning May 29, the restaurants will be offering wild Copper River salmon from Alaska. Due to its short season of availability, the fish will be offered for seven weeks. It will be served grilled over summer corn risotto with roasted asparagus, grilled red peppers, and dill mustard sauce.
What exactly is the big deal with Copper River salmon, you may ask? Is there actually a difference between Copper River salmon and salmon from other parts of Alaska? The answer to those questions might be difficult to determine, but one thing is certain: Copper River salmon has a brilliant marketing team. This marketing has led to salmon from Copper River fetching nearly twice as much as comparable salmon from
other parts of Alaska. In many ways, that has made all the difference.
Evolution has played a part in the flavor and consistency of the salmon
as well, which has greatly contributed to the fishermen's marketing
strategy. The Copper River is the tenth largest river in the United
States. That said, it is also one of the more arduous for salmon,
running at around seven miles per hour. According to the Copper River Salmon website,
"It is up this intense river system that the salmon must travel 300
miles to reach their spawning grounds, which requires extra stores of
omega-3 fatty acids that make Copper River salmon some of the most
prized salmon in the world." These environmental factors have led the fishermen to view the salmon in a different light compared to other
commercially caught fish.
Since the fishermen of Copper River deem their fish superior to others,
they have adopted better handling practices than the industry norm. In
2010, Barry Estabrook did a piece for the Atlantic detailing
the fishing practices of the Copper River. He was astonished by what he
saw. "I'd been on salmon gillnetters before, so I had a few
preconceptions of what might happen next -- fish violently shaken from
the net onto the deck, getting kicked around and stepped on before being
tossed like so many chunks of stove wood into a plastic container,
piling on top of each other by the hundreds and with no ice to keep them
cold." Apparently, this was not the case on the boat he visited. In
this case, the female fisherman extracted each fish individually,
quickly severed the gills to ensure a clean, quick bleed, and then
placed each fish in ice water. As soon as the boats came into port, the
catch was processed, then flown fresh down to Seattle.
Whether the high prices fetched or the belief in superiority led the
fishermen to treat their fish with such respect may be up for debate.
Regardless, Copper River fishermen maintain their catch's integrity
through humane killing and sustainable catching practices. That should
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be something to respect. With all of the reports of overfishing, it's
nice to know that there is at least one option that can be consumed
without a guilty conscience. Besides, it would be nice to know if there
actually is much of a difference in taste.