Description: The Arctic Char is an obvious member of the Salmon family, with the typical shape, colorings, and flesh. Wild specimens can grow quite large- exceeding three feet in length and weighing more than 30 pounds. Farmed fish are usually slaughtered at a fraction of that size- from three to six pounds on average.
Habitat/distribution: Char are found throughout the cold waters of the Arctic. They are, like most salmonids, anadromous fishes, meaning they leave saltwater for fresh to spawn. However, there are some isolated populations that live exclusively in freshwater.
Method of harvest: While wild Char is fished commercially in some parts of its range, the overwhelming majority consumed in the US is farm-raised.
Cooking characteristics: Like its cousins, Char is a fatty succulent fish which may be substituted for Salmon in any preparation. In fact, the most obvious difference between farmed Char and farmed Salmon is the size of the fillet.
Sustainability: The small commercial harvests are generally well-regulated and managed. Aquacultured Char is widely considered to be a very good choice for two reasons: most farms are closed systems, reducing the possibility of pollutions escapes and introduction of disease to wild populations; and only a moderate amount of wild forage fish resources are used in the production of Char (approximately 1.8:1). Monterey Bay Aquarium recommends farmed Arctic Char as a ‘Best Choice”.