A total of 798 individuals from 42 different populations of chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) were examined for mtDNA variation. Populations were sampled across the geographic range of the species, from mainland Japan around the Pacific Rim to the state of Washington in the United States. The entire D-loop region (approximately 1 kb) was sequenced for 16 individuals from representative populations. Subregions (approximately 200 nucleotides each) of the D-loop reported to be rapidly evolving in salmon were sequenced for another 29 individuals. Only 4 nucleotide variants were detected, and they occurred in only 4 individuals. Four coding regions of the mtDNA genome were also examined using restriction fragment analysis of products amplified via the polymerase chain reaction. Only one, the region coding for NADH dehydrogenase subunits 5 and 6, showed any variation at this level. The restriction enzyme AseI revealed a polymorphism where the frequency of haplotypes was correlated geographically. We surveyed all individuals for this polymorphism and documented a cline in frequency of the haplotypes around the Pacific Rim. There was a significant frequency difference between Japan and 3 other major geographic regions (Russia, Alaska/Yukon, and British Columbia/Washington) for the presence of the 2 haplotypes. This marker may prove useful in the identification of continent-of-origin for individual chum salmon caught in the open ocean.