First Copper River salmon arrives safely in Seattle

Alaska Airlines Captain Brent Carricaburu showcasing the first Copper River salmon caught by Trident Seafoods. The first fish weighed 33 pounds.

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine

Alaska Airlines Captain Brent Carricaburu presenting the first Copper River salmon, which weighed in at 33 pounds.

One taste is all it takes to fall in love with Copper River salmon. Known for its bright orange or red color and mouthwatering taste, anyone lucky enough to enjoy a fresh filet of this wild, not farmed, fish won’t be disappointed by its flavor and freshness.

The salmon made its way from the state of Alaska to Seattle this morning by Alaska Air Cargo – the first of many shipments expected this season, which runs now through September.

“Alaska Air Cargo has long been a partner of the Alaska seafood industry,” said Torque Zubeck, managing director of cargo for Alaska Airlines. “Now more than ever, we provide a critical service that directly impacts the economic vitality of the region. In Cordova alone, more than half of its 2,200 residents are directly involved in the fishery or related business and industry.”


More than 200 health care workers at Swedish Medical Center – Ballard will be among the first to enjoy the season’s first catch of prized Copper River salmon in appreciation for their efforts to help stop the coronavirus.

Alaska Airlines, Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, and Copper River Seafoods – the region’s largest seafood processors, Copper River Marketing Association and famed Seattle chef Tom Douglas are partnering to provide a delicious meal to health care workers, as well as  feed the community while raising money for Food Lifeline.

Safety from first catch to delivery

With guidance from government and medical professionals, Trident Seafoods CEO Joe Bundrant, along with others in the fishing industry, put extraordinary workforce and community protection measures in place, with the goal of  ensuring a safe and successful season this year.

“Our No. 1 priority at Trident Seafoods is keeping our communities, our employees and our fishermen safe,” said Bundrant. “We are doing everything in our power to deliver seafood safely and in record time to allow our customers to enjoy our Alaska salmon products fresh and ready to serve thanks to Alaska Air Cargo.”

To keep our employees safe and to align with Centers for Disease Control recommendation, Alaska Air Cargo employees who cannot maintain six feet of social distance during interaction with co-workers have also started to wear face coverings.

Alaska Air Cargo employees begin to unload Copper River salmon, part of the first shipment to arrive in Seattle.

Where you can find salmon to purchase:

Make some room in your fridge, the following stores will be stocked with Copper River salmon to purchase. Note: curbside pickup is available at some locations, please call ahead to confirm.

  • QFC
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Haggen’s
  • Town & Country
  • Thriftway
  • Metropolitan Market

You can also purchase a gourmet dish from  Tom Douglas’ website for a limited time. On Sunday, May 17, Chef Tom Douglas will be “Grilling for Good,” he and his team will prepare six-ounce grilled Copper River sockeye salmon entrees with sides and make the meal available for purchase on Tom Douglas’ website, with all proceeds donated to Food Lifeline. Order while supplies last!

Cooking at home: Try Tom’s sake steamed Sockeye salmon with sake butter recipe

“I like to use sockeye salmon for this dish – its firm flesh and rich flavors are perfect for steaming.   You could, of course, use other types of salmon and this is a good technique for other firm-fleshed fish such as ling cod or halibut. Chinese bamboo steamers work well and they are not very expensive, though any steamer set up is fine.  I love the aromatic steam you get in this method of cooking: the water really does have a beautiful aroma and it permeates the salmon.” – Tom Douglas, Seattle chef & restaurateur

What you’ll need 

  • 1 Stalk lemongrass, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sake
  • 10 Ginger coins, sliced 1/8” thick
  • 2 Star Anise pods
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions

Directions Serves 4

Bruise the lemongrass with the back of your knife to help release the aromatics.

Set up your steamer (we use a large saucepan or a wok with a Chinese bamboo steamer set over it).  Place the lemon grass, water, sake, ginger, star anise, and orange peel in the bottom of your steamer (ie. the saucepan or wok).  Bring to a boil.  Lay the salmon fillets in the steamer basket and cover with the steamer lid.  Steam until the salmon is just done, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Place a salmon fillet on each plate.  Spoon some of the sake butter over each portion of fish. Garnish with a lime wedge.  Serve with Crispy Sesame Rice Cake or Aromatic Steamed Rice and steamed baby bok choy. Pair it with some sake or a glass of classic Oregon Pinot Gris.

Bon appetit!