Market Report

October 14, 2014

SALMON/TROUT

Higher harvest levels for Atlantic salmon in 2014 will put pressure on volume for the balance of 2014 and 2015. Price estimates for Norwegian salmon were raised by 5 percent for next year, and Chile produced 60,000 metric tons more than expected, taking away from the existing biomass. Impact from the Russian sanctions should be minimal, and Euro salmon is making its way into Russia: it’s being processed in neighboring countries and shipped into Russia. Presently, prices are steady to down against moderate to soft demand. Chilean producers predict costs falling even further until holiday demand reverses the trend. Premium Norwegian and Scottish salmon flown directly from the farms to Denver is a great value, hand processed to your exact specs. Not to be outdone in the world of farmed salmon, Skuna Bay salmon from Nootka Sound in Canada is shipped to our dock twice a week by carbon-friendly ground transport. All Skuna salmon are hand graded and specially packed in biodegradable thermal boxes. Supply is excellent; add Skuna craft-raised salmon to your menu today.

Wild salmon, while coming to a close for the season, has not released its grasp yet. Cohos and chums are running strong, and expect to see fresh coho salmon from Puget Sound in your favorite local retail markets. The coho run should last another two to three weeks, chums a bit longer. Fret not; Seattle Fish Company will continue to be your wild salmon source all winter. We have been reserving the finest of the summer catch, and will be supplying premium frozen and refreshed wild kings, sockeyes and cohos all winter.

Fish prefer the cold, and farm-raised trout is no exception. Our growers report full production of all forms of rainbow and red meat trout. Our Utah red trout connection is also providing a limited supply of single-lobe, pin-bone-out red trout fillets. When available, these fish are on our receiving dock a day out of the raceways. Check with your sales rep for availability. We are looking to expand our Colorado trout offering to wholesale accounts in the coming month. Stay tuned for details.

CATFISH

U.S. farm-raised catfish, grown in the South, is sustainable, healthy, and available year round. Supply lately has been somewhat limited, and feed and transport costs have increased prices minimally, but this versatile fish is perfect for your retail store and for restaurant specials. Many view catfish as only good for deep-frying, but skilled home cooks and restaurant chefs prefer a heart-healthy grilled, baked, or broiled dish. Retail ad offerings will be limited for a time, but our dedicated catfish farmers will ensure an adequate supply all winter.

WEST COAST

There are 24 days left in the 2014 Alaskan halibut season, and 93 percent of the catch has been landed. Oncoming harsh weather will limit our Adak plant to one more harvest, hopefully later this week. Sitka is still seeing landings, but prices are very firm. We will offer fresh halibut as long as it lasts and then transition to our Alaskan refresh program. Halibut harvested at the height of the season and immediately blast frozen maintains its flesh integrity and quality. Prices will be higher than last year’s, but Alaskan halibut can stay on your menu during the off season. Ground fishing is at the mercy of the weather, but an adequate supply of rockfish, shallow-water Dover sole and true Pacific cod is available. The full cod season in Alaska opens January 1.

King crab lovers, rejoice…kinda. Alaska’s red crab season will see a 17 percent increase in harvest this year. Biologists indicate the crab spawning biomass allows for the quota bump. Alaska totals are still very small compared the Russian crab catch. The Alaska snow crab fishery will also be increased 25 percent for the 2014-2015 season, which runs from October 15 to May 31, 2015.

Our California connection is slowly getting back to normal after the hurricane weather passed. We have seen some supply of yellowtail, white bass and corvina. The harpoon sword fishermen are out, and we received an offer of a day boat harpoon sword, pure velvet but very pricey, and had no takers in light of the lower overall swordfish prices. We will offer it again when it’s available.

New-season Mexican wild bay shrimp is in house, and we have all sizes, some limited. Opening prices are similar to last year’s, which were high. We should see wild ocean shrimp in a week or so and have some larger-sized, value-added peeled raw and cooked shrimp available. These value-added shrimp will come with a firm price tag, but we are talking apples and oranges in comparison to imported raw peeled and deveined shrimp. Don’t get me wrong, our imported selection is of very good quality, but Mexican shrimp is arguably the finest in the world, a good segue to the global shrimp outlook.   If we look at Vietnam and its current rate of growth into 2016, they will be three million metric tons off the pre-EMS era, creating a “multibillion-dollar problem” in the shrimp industry. Countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia are looking to improve industry-wide quality standards to improve their world image and avoid disease. Exports are increasing to the U.S. and especially China, but production is not meeting demand, which all contributes to continued high shrimp prices heading into the holiday season. There is some sunshine on the horizon, namely changes in management and higher expectations of new genetics increasing survival rates. As always, rely on Seattle Fish Company to provide all your shrimp needs.

EAST COAST

Leading news in our East Coast section is the state of live and frozen lobsters. Lobster pricing and volume the past two years has been very consumer friendly, so much so that restaurants and retailers switched from high-priced shrimp to lobsters. China and other Asian countries also fed their enormous appetite with lobster products and, oddly enough, really like them. Domestic buyers are on the offensive looking to cover holiday demand. Prices have increased $1 over the past month. Accurately predicting the market is hard to do, but live market indications point to higher prices than we have seen the past few years. Catches in Maine are down this year, and significant numbers of live lobsters are ticketed for Asia. We should get a better market picture when the Nova Scotia season opens.

Cod fishermen in New England are facing a crisis. Quotas and days at sea are down, and many fishermen are struggling to maintain a boat, let alone a fleet. Even the fertile cod grounds in the Barents Sea have been cut to 894,000 metric tons, a 10 percent drop from last year. Cuts may seem painful to buyers and sellers in the short term, but sustainability of the fishery must be considered along with social and economic factors. Other ground fishing in the Northeast has ground to a halt this week due to high winds forcing boats off the fishing grounds. We are looking for a supply of large monk tail, dabs, flounder, and haddock; hopefully, the end of week may bring signs of relief. There’s not much change in the scallop fishery this week, maintaining the redundant message of high prices and limited availability of large U-10 sizes. We carry two excellent smaller-sized scallops at more favorable pricing: 50- to 60-count bay scallops from Mexico and 30- to 40-count lantern scallops from Peru.

SHELLFISH

Our market report on West Coast oysters finally has good news after months of quality due to summer spawn and availability due to vibrio closures or the threat of vibrio closures. Washington growers are very optimistic this winter season.  Oystermen report two major farms have so many oysters ready for harvest on their beaches, there is no room to spread new bags of babies. Seed supply was a major problem last year, and while not solved, it is better, leading to more availability from new areas that have not been sourced in years. One of those new areas is near the mouth of the Samish River in the north Puget Sound, and is producing oysters to love. More specific details will follow as harvests gear up. British Columbia is coming back on line, but at a slower rate, having experienced high mortality, which will possibly lead to shortages this winter. The East Coast is also brimming with a great oyster selection, from the Shemogues on the Tormentine Peninsula in Southeast New Brunswick to our awesome mid-Atlantic choices. One of those mid-Atlantics is found at 38 degrees north latitude in 38-degree waters, and is aptly named the 38 Degree North. This “house” oyster is much more than that: perfectly sized, reasonably priced and best of all, with a great taste. This hardy band of aquaculturists hails from the region and is drawn to the love and charm of the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters taste like their environment, and 38 Degrees are typically mild, with a perfect blend of salinity from the bay and a sweet aftertaste. No pesticides or hormones are used when they’re harvested; 38 Degree North oysters are iced at a temperature that maintains flavor and safety.

Like oysters, Manila clams from the Northwest are healthy and strong, and meat counts are good. East Coast hard shells, both farmed and wild, are consistently sized; bag counts are exact, and taste-wise, they are arguably the finest on the East Coast. All our hard-shell clams have come from Dennis, Massachusetts, expertly harvested, packed and shipped by the same friends we hooked up with more than 20 years ago. Get with your Seattle Fish Company shellfish experts for your oyster, clam and specialty shellfish needs.

GULF

Tuna and swordfish fishing in the Gulf waters has been slowed by hurricane and tropical storm-like weather, typical of the fall season as water temperatures change. Our tuna boats from Dulac, Louisiana, called in a shipment last night, so we should have domestic fish in for weekend sales. Swordfish fishing in the Gulf has been spotty, but numerous offers from other regions have depressed prices. Ask your sales rep for a swordfish special this week—it’s a great value. Equally good and getting better is mahi as costs start to hit their winter lows. When mahi prices go down, quality goes up: it’s counterintuitive, but this is the season to put mahi on your menus. Look for advertised retail mahi specials in the coming weeks. Our Gulf Wild American red snapper supply is steady as she goes, and the Gulf Wild grouper from Florida is coming back to the fold after a recent shortage. We have said it before, but it bears repeating; all Gulf Wild fish are individually tagged, reporting on the location of fishing waters and the name of the boat and boat captain. Our Gulf Wild fish are listed as a “good alternative” on Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch website.

Gulf shrimp boats are starting to come back with a steady catch. We have U-12 and U-15 shell-on browns in house and ever-popular 71-90 raw, peeled and deveined, tail-off shrimp. Speaking of smaller P/D Gulf shrimp, ever-elusive rock shrimp is arriving this week, and not just any rock shrimp: rock shrimp from Pascagoula, Mississippi, 50- to 60-count IQF morsels. Rock shrimp from Pascagoula have that distinctive crunch and a sweet flavor. Order up!

GREAT LAKES

Water temperatures in the Great Lakes region have cooled, bringing walleye closer to the surface. Snow is not falling, frigid Canadian temperatures have not frozen the Lakes and fishing conditions are good. When fresh is unavailable, we have an excellent supply of new-season frozen walleye fillets.

HAWAII

Local fish unloading at the Honolulu Auction have seen good volume lately, some days hitting more than 100,000 lbs. When levels are up, buyers get excited, as it gives them diversity and choice. More bottom fish are also starting to appear. This daily auction moves fast, so we do not get a price for the fish and then make a buy-or-pass decision. Our buyers at the auction are given a wish list of species we want to buy and a price range, our opt-out number, if you will. The pace is fast, and we place a great deal of trust in our skilled auction buyers. Hawaiian Kampachi farmers are still on their once-a-week harvest schedule, except for this week, when they’ve chosen to avoid an outbound airfreight nightmare caused by the crush of competitors and tourists associated with the annual Ironman competition in Honolulu. We will be back to the regular schedule next week. Kampachi prices are up a bit, but this fish is well worth it, perfect for your winter menu.

Appetizers are a very important part of a restaurant’s menu, generally the first thing your server asks about after taking your beverage order. Seafood is in the forefront of many of the top choices. The number one choice, not surprisingly, is calamari. It’s tough to find a restaurant without some kind of squid appetizer. Even though it has lost some steam due to escalating prices, shrimp still rates at the top. Also making the grade are oysters, raw, baked, broiled—you name it. Twenty years ago, 80 percent of the oysters consumed in the U.S. were shucked; today, those numbers are reversed. Additional top choices are crab cakes, a popular Eastern Seaboard menu item, and seafood tartare or crudo of some kind. None of these top choices comes as a big shock. The point is, Seattle Fish Company has the best and biggest choice to enhance your menu. Calamari options are numerous, crabmeat selection is the best and most varied, our oyster choices are legend and if your fish choice for tartare swims, we have it.

Please check out our seafood guide, newsletters, and a ton of information on our website.

Regards,

Harry Mahlers

Harry Mahleres

Director of Purchasing
 
Harry@seattlefish.com

303.329.9595 ext. 121

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