Update: Copper River salmon arrives

The first delivery of Alaska’s prized Copper River salmon touched the tarmac at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at daybreak on Friday, carrying 25,000 pounds of fresh sockeye and king salmon.

The shipment came in from the fishing grounds near Cordova, Alaska, on an Alaska Airlines cargo plane, and at least four more flights hauling Copper River salmon were due to arrive today. The product in the initial deliveries was purchased by Seattle suppliers Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods of Anchorage, Alaska.

This year, Alaska Airlines — which last year carried more than 25 million pounds of fresh seafood from Alaska to the Lower 48, including nearly 700,000 pounds of Copper River salmon — has stepped up its promotion of the first delivery of Copper River salmon by hosting a cook-off at the airport.

Pat Donahue, executive chef of Anthony’s Restaurants, beat out Peter Levine of Seastar Restaurant and John Howie of Waterfront Seafood Grill to win the Copper Chef Cook-Off with his Wild Copper River Alder Planked Chinook Salmon, which Alaska Airlines announced via its Twitter account.  

The panel of judges included former Seattle Mariners baseball player Jay Buhner; Mike Fourtner, a crewman on the F/V Time Bandit and a “Deadliest Catch” star; Washington State University football coach Paul Wulff; and Alaska Airlines President Brad Tilden.

Numerous restaurants across the Lower 48, from including Anthony’s in the Pacific Northwest to New York’s Grand Central Oyster Bar, are promoting Copper River salmon this year.  

The fishery, which marks the unofficial start of Alaska’s summer salmon season, opened on Thursday for 12 hours. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), about 300 fishermen caught 924 chinook, 6,389 sockeye and 1,418 chums. The second 12-hour opener will begin at 7 a.m. on Monday.

According to the ADF&G, this year’s Copper River salmon catch is forecasted to total 25,000 chinook and 1.49 million sockeye.

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