This review describes the global use and exchange of salmonid genetic resources for human food from fisheries and aquaculture. Trends in population abundance, variations in the harvest of wild stocks, historic transfers and worldwide translocations of stocks for fisheries and aquaculture are briefly described for seven species of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus), for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and for Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus). Also considered are the tools currently used to assist in the conservation of endangered wild populations (e.g. captive breeding programmes and gene banks) and the major techniques developed to enhance the production of cultured stocks (selective breeding, hybridization, sex control, chromosome set manipulation and gene transfer). The review briefly discusses the significance of salmon production to the economy of selected countries and the complexity of allocating economic value to long-range migratory fisheries resources that also hold direct and indirect value for aboriginal/native communities and recreational users.