Chum salmon swimming near a rocky bottom

About The Species

U.S. wild-caught chum salmon is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

However, some chum salmon are also protected under the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about protected chum salmon.

Population Level

There are hundreds of chum salmon stocks in Alaska and four Pacific stocks. Some stocks are above target population levels, while others are below.

Fishing Status

Managers set fishing rates to avoid jeopardizing the survival and recovery of chum salmon stocks that are below their target levels.

Habitat Impact

Fishing gear used to catch chum salmon rarely contacts the ocean floor and has little impact on habitat.


Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.


  • Alaska:
  • Pacific Northwest:
  • Populations are affected by:
    • Changes in ocean and climatic conditions.
    • Habitat loss from dam construction and urban development.
    • Degraded water quality from agricultural and logging practices.
  • Population conservation efforts include:
    • Captive-rearing in hatcheries.
    • Removal and modification of dams that obstruct salmon migration.
    • Restoration of degraded habitat.
    • Acquisition of key habitat.
    • Improvements to water quality and instream flow.
  • The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund supports the restoration of salmon species.
  • Chum salmon is one of the largest species of Pacific salmon, second only to Chinook salmon in size.
  • When in the ocean, chum salmon are metallic greenish-blue along the back with black speckles, similar to both sockeye and coho salmon.
  • As they enter freshwater, their appearance changes dramatically.
    • Both sexes develop a tiger stripe pattern of bold red and black stripes.
    • Males develop enormous canine-like fangs and their bodies have a striking calico pattern, with the front two-thirds of the flank marked by a bold, jagged, reddish line and the back third by a jagged black line.
    • Spawning females are less flamboyantly colored and do not have fangs.
  • When juvenile chum salmon are about to migrate to sea, they lose their parr marks (vertical bars and spots useful for camouflage) and gain the dark back and light belly of fish living in open water.
Behavior and Diet
  • Chum salmon are anadromous—they hatch in freshwater streams and rivers then migrate out to the saltwater environment of the ocean to feed and grow.
  • Chum salmon do not reside in freshwater for an extended period (unlike coho, Chinook, and sockeye salmon).
  • They can grow up to 3.6 feet and 30 to 35 pounds, but their average weight is 8 to 15 pounds.
  • Young chum salmon (fry) typically migrate directly to estuarine and marine waters soon after they are born.
  • As they grow larger, they migrate offshore across the North Pacific Ocean.
  • As they approach sexual maturity, they migrate back into coastal waters and return to the freshwater area where they were born to spawn.
  • They typically spawn between the ages of 3 and 6.
  • They spawn from late summer to March, with peak spawning concentrated in early winter when the river flows are high.
  • They usually nest in areas in the lowermost reaches of rivers and streams, within 60 miles of the ocean.
  • They prefer to nest in areas with upwelling currents to provide oxygen for their developing embryos, and they cover their nests (redds) with gravel.
  • In North America, female chum salmon typically have 2,000 to 4,000 eggs.
  • All chum salmon die after they spawn.
  • Young chum salmon feed on insects as they migrate downriver and on insects and marine invertebrates in estuaries and near-shore marine habitats.
  • Adults eat copepods, fishes, mollusks, squid, and tunicates.
  • Various fish and birds prey on juvenile chum salmon. Sharks, sea lions and seals, and orcas eat adult chum salmon.
  • After salmon spawn and die, salmon carcasses are a valuable source of energy and nutrients to the river ecosystem. Carcasses have been shown to improve newly hatched salmon growth and survival by contributing nitrogen and phosphorous compounds to streams.
Location Description

Chum salmon are the most widely distributed of all the Pacific salmon.
They are found throughout the North Pacific Ocean and range from the arctic coast of Canada and throughout the northern coastal regions of North America and Asia.
In the United States, chum salmon are found throughout Alaska and as far south as Tillamook Bay, Oregon, on the West Coast.  

  • NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage chum salmon on the West Coast.
  • Managed under the Pacific Coast Salmon Plan:
    • All Pacific salmon species fall under the jurisdiction of this plan, although it currently only provides fishery management objectives for Chinook, coho, pink, and any salmon species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
    • There are no directed fisheries for chum salmon in federal waters in this area, and chum salmon are rarely caught in the fisheries managed by the council.
    • Chum salmon are caught primarily in inland waters where fisheries are managed to ensure that conservation objectives are met.
  • NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage chum salmon in Alaska. 
  • Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Salmon Fisheries in the EEZ off the Coast of Alaska:
    • All management of the salmon fisheries in federal waters is deferred to the State of Alaska, which is also responsible for managing the commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries for salmon in state waters. This ensures that management is consistent throughout salmon’s range.
      • Managers regulate the fishery based on escapement goals to ensure harvests are sustainable. They want enough salmon to be able to escape the fishery and return to freshwater to spawn and replenish the population.
      • Salmon fishery management largely relies on in-season assessment of how many salmon return to freshwater to spawn.
      • Managers set harvest levels based on these returns. When abundance is high and the number of fish returning is much higher than that needed to meet escapement goals, harvest levels are set higher.
      • In years of low abundance, harvest levels are lowered.
    • During the season, scientists monitor catch and escapement, comparing current returns with those from previous years, to keep an eye on abundance and actively manage the fishery.
  • Off the West Coast and in Alaska, the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission help coordinate management, research, and enhancement of shared U.S. and international salmon stocks, including chum.