Are salmon as pink as they used to be?

Nofima researchers will collect data from commercial production facilities to identify causal relationships and recommend measures for improving pigmentation in salmon.

Are salmon as pink as they used to be?
Photo credits: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen/Nofima and Terje Aamodt/Nofima.
April 1, 2022

The color of salmon fillets is one of the most important quality criteria and paler salmon are downgraded, resulting in financial losses for fish farmers.

“If we can find the main reasons for poor pigmentation in commercially produced salmon, the industry could work on production improvements in a more targeted manner,” said Trine Ytrestøyl, senior researcher at Nofima.

There is not much documentation available about the extent and prevalence of poor pigmentation both geographically and timewise. The project Knowledge Mapping Pigmentation, funded by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF), aims to fill this gap.

There could be many reasons

It is widely believed that the color of Norwegian salmon fillets has deteriorated during the last ten years. At the same time, as levels of the pigment astaxanthin in fillets have dropped, astaxanthin levels in salmon feed have increased during the sea growth phase.


“During the same period that pigmentation problems have occurred, the composition of feed has been changed, there has been an increase in handling as a result of problems with salmon lice and larger juvenile fish are being produced in land-based facilities. All this can affect pigmentation, so it is important to obtain information about production conditions so that we can identify the possible causes of poor pigmentation,” explained Ytrestøyl.

Questionnaire and seminar invitation

In order to obtain details about the extent of the problem and developments in pigmentation, the researchers will be collecting data from commercial production facilities from as far back in time as possible and from different regions and countries. Interviews and surveys will allow researchers to identify causal relationships and recommend measures for improving pigmentation.

Nofima will also invite those concerned to attend several open seminars on pigmentation during the project period. “We hope that this project will help increase industry expertise about pigmentation and how different methods of measuring the color of salmon fillets could provide different answers,” said Ytrestøyl.