The identification of sustainably managed fisheries is problematic for marketers and consumers of Pacific salmon food products owing to lack of well-defined and robust criteria that take into account current ecosystem science of salmon. We present the rationale for an alternative conceptual framework for salmon management that supports the development of sustainable sourcing criteria. Our approach contrasts with current large-scale fisheries certification programs such as that of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and general consumer recommendation services such as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (SFW) program. Our framework is based on the “place-based” character of salmon populations and recognition of fundamental aspects of salmon ecology, particularly the evolution of population life histories that are locally adapted to freshwater spawning and rearing habitats. We describe how this framework underpins development of science-based sourcing criteria and how it differs in important respects from the industrial approach that historically and currently is the basis for most salmon management. We conclude with a discussion of how the framework and its application may provide a model for redirecting salmon management, in general, towards a more science- and place-based approach and why that is likely to be sustainable in the long term in a way that most contemporary salmon management is not.

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