Once upon a time, fresh salmon made a regular appearance on my dinner table. The California fishery was still relatively healthy and I could always count on finding fresh, locally-caught king salmon at my neighborhood grocery store throughout the spring and summer. The succulent orange flesh of the thick steaks and fillets was irresistible. Prices weren’t bad either.
Fast forward a decade and fresh salmon from local fishing boats has become a rare luxury. Federal authorities have placed the California coastal king salmon, also known as Chinook, on their list of threatened species. The state closed salmon fisheries altogether for the first time in 2008 and 2009 because the stock of Chinook was so low. This year, the ocean season was restricted to the month of April and catches were limited to two salmon a day.
Of course, there’s still salmon in the market, but most of the wild-caught fish has been shipped from Alaska with prices to match. Even then much of it is labeled “previously frozen” because most of the Alaskan catch is flash-frozen on the boat as soon as it’s caught. So I’ve been reconsidering the shrink-wrapped wild salmon in the freezer cases at stores like Trader Joe’s, where prices are about half that of fresh fish. (more…)