Salmon markets react to a variety of factors, but an unusual driver of changing conditions comes in the form of sanctions with Russia striking back over trade restrictions banning a host of food imports from the United States and Europe, which includes salmon from Norway and Scotland. Russia is the fourth-largest importer of farm-raised salmon from Europe, and truckloads were virtually stopped at the borders. Exporters from Norway are worried and are talking about a “terrible market” causing prices to fall, at least in the short term. Prices are stable for the larger sizes of Scottish salmon, but the price of 5 kg. and smaller sizes are witnessing falling prices. Supply to Russia will likely come from Chile, causing prices in this region to firm. Interestingly, Norwegians own several Chilean production companies. Another pitfall for Russia dealing with Chile is air logistics, which are not conducive to necessary volume. Holding overall price hikes at bay is a strong wild season. Coho runs are steady in southeast Alaska. Ample troll king supply from California, Alaska and Canada round out our wild salmon supply. Look for a late-August Columbia River King run with favorable pricing. The Fraser River is poised for a record late sockeye run. Optimism is somewhat tempered by low water and warm temperatures, but early numbers look good.
Skuna Bay is once again in full production, expertly graded and packed by craft fishermen on Walcan Island in Campbell River, Canada. Skuna salmon go through a strict grading system, and only the finest unblemished salmon are packed in new thermal boxes specially developed to retain cold temperatures along the cold chain. Add Skuna salmon to your fall and winter menus.
Farm-raised trout supply is good for rainbow, but limited in the red meat variety. We have recently checked out samples of red trout from our Utah connection. Once production issues are solved, we should have additional red trout inventory. Trout prices remain reasonable, and we have the right cut and size for your menu or retail case.
Our U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish producers have the volume and sizes back to normal. Retail stores are in full order mode with planned ads, so check your news media for details. U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is sustainably raised, and our partners are the only BAP-certified farms in the U.S., earning Best Aquaculture Practice distinction.
Seventy percent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of halibut has been harvested to date, leaving the balance to be spread over the final three months of the 2014 season. Prices have dipped slightly this week, but expect strength as we push toward closing day. Additionally, freezers are not to capacity, further muddying the pricing waters. We will have frozen supply for our winter re-refresh program, but prices will be higher than last season. Other offerings from the Northwest coast and Alaska have been adequate. Shallow-water Dover sole and petrale remain short, but both species are beginning to rebound. Rock cod, perch, arrowtooth flounder and sablefish are steady. Pacific cod is the least available of West Coast groundfish, with few offerings available. Frozen sable has been somewhat scarce, with producers sourcing product to freeze, but that too is loosening. The MSC albacore season is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest, with the majority of catch going to frozen sashimi loins. California trolls have slumped recently, firming the overall king market. Relief is around the corner, however, with the net season in full bloom. King salmon from the Columbia River and the San Juan Islands/Rosario Straits in Hood Canal will fill retail ads for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Southern California fishing has been spotty, with limited offerings. Yellowtail, California halibut (where are you when the Alaska season closes), Mexican bay scallops and snappers are filling the bill. As always, ask your rep for world-famous uni and live urchin from San Diego. Further south, Mexico is quiet, still a month or so away from the Mexican shrimp season. Judging from the current state of the shrimp industry, don’t look for any price relief this year. Asia is not producing good news either. In addition to the ever-presence of early mortality syndrome (EMS), recent typhoons have damaged processing plants, fueling the price-and-supply fire. China actually imports shrimp to satiate their burgeoning demand, further increasing prices worldwide. After a midsummer dip, the price of larger-size shrimp is back on the rise. Americans are prone to overspend on shrimp, so look for demand and subsequent cost to stay elevated. Gotta have our shrimp fix!
The mid-Atlantic and New England domestic scallop industry looks somewhat dire as we head into the fall and winter. Allowable days at sea are dwindling, as is the quota for this season. Did we say last year there would be record prices? Same mantra applies this year, especially for the large U-10 size, the most preferred. Price has stifled demand, at least in our region, with customers opting out or serving smaller scallops, a trend that will likely continue through the holiday season. Some good scallop news on the horizon is a 33% increase for the 2015 season. East Coast groundfishing remains steady for quiet demand. Cod is plentiful in Iceland, and daily shipments direct to Denver supply our customers with jet-fresh fillets.
The live lobster market is thriving, and new shell lobsters are fast becoming harder shell lobsters. Prices for chicks, quarters and halves are steady, but all large sizes have taken a big jump this week. If you are planning a large party or function, pre-book with your sales rep for preferred pricing.
Ugliness permeates the oyster industry right now, at least on the West Coast. Totten Inlet is closed until October 1 due to four confirmed vibrio illnesses. Affected areas are Wolf Beach, Eagle Rock and Totten Inlet. Little Skookum is closed until August 18 or until they receive two clean water tests consecutively one week apart. This includes Barron Point, Wildcat Cove and Skookum Inlet. The oyster beds in Eld Inlet, Hammersley Inlet and Pickering Passage were temporarily closed due to an illness attributed to oysters in one restaurant in Milwaukee that was traced back to the state of Washington. These regions expect a favorable ruling to reopen, but the involvement of several governmental agencies may prolong the process. So enough about what we can’t have right now ... let’s talk about what we can get. A West Coast feature is the Henderson Pearl Oyster, a bag-tumbled Pacific oyster grown by the Nisqually Tribe in Puget Sound. The tidal currents tumble the oysters in suspended bags, creating a smooth round shape. Hendersons generally have a deep cup with mild salt and sweet cucumber finish common in the Pacific oyster. East Coast oyster selection is better, and we are starting to see some size. Have you tried a French Kiss yet? We are talking oysters here, a farm-raised Canadian selection from Miramichi Bay on the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick. French Kisses are a larger version of the famous Beau Soleils, simply allowed to grow a couple of years to reach 3-½ inches. These oysters are placed in mesh bags suspended from floating buoys. The natural ebb and flow of the tides chips away at the shell, creating a smooth deep cup. The oysters are periodically exposed to the sun and wind, strengthening their adductor muscle to help retain the oyster’s liquor. French Kiss oysters are full of meat, with medium-high salinity and a sugar finish; hand-packed in a 60-count wood box. Check with your rep today and ask about a pre-order.
Prince Edward Island mussels from Canada are getting stronger, as are the Bangs Island mussels from Casco, Maine. Bangs are still a once-a-week harvest, but the stock is growing and will be back to two deliveries a week later in the fall through winter. Hard-shell clams from Dennis, Massachusetts, continue to headline our clam offerings, always with consistent size and count. Manila clams off the West Coast, on the other hand, face the same maladies as the oysters. We are buying less volume and on a daily basis to keep freshness.
Gulf waters are starting to yield greater volume of quality yellowfin tuna and swordfish, as prices remain stable. Conversely, Gulf Wild grouper has tightened, but we continue to see strong numbers of American red snapper. If you want to know where your grouper or snapper is coming from, all our Gulf Wild fish are individually tagged with easily accessible information of location of catch within a 10-square-mile radius, name of boat and boat captain. Ask for Gulf Wild seafood, responsibly harvested. Mahi, a fish always in demand, is virtually nonexistent, and what is available is very expensive this summer, pushing cost past swordfish and tuna. Put the blame on El Nino for disrupting sourcing. Patterns will reverse, and mahi supply should be back in vogue this fall into the winter.
The Gulf shrimp season has been mediocre at best, reporting low numbers of browns translating to higher consumer costs. Shrimping started late, ended late and braved cold conditions this spring. Coupled with above-average rainfall dumping fresh water into the shrimping grounds, catch is low. Prime fishing is a month behind schedule.
Walleye supply has been dismal lately. Hot weather sends the fish to greater depths seeking cool water. The proverbial worm will turn, and fall should bring excellent supply. This will be an ideal time for retail ads and restaurant menu specials.
Hawaiian buyers are poised to report the latest numbers on the Honolulu fish auction. Opah, spearfish (hebi), monchong, marlin and, lately, Hawaiian swordfish have been available. Our buyers report average buying prices on the species we are looking for, take our price range and attempt to fill our orders. Successful bids are tagged for Seattle Fish Company, chilled, boxed and immediately shipped to our Denver docks. Our expert production crew cuts and processes fish to your specification.
Our Hawaiian kampachi farms, located in the pristine deep ocean waters off the coast of Kona, are steadily getting back to full production. Sizing is good, and we expect full shipping schedule for the fall and winter months. Kampachi would be an excellent winter menu item.
Please check out our website for the latest Seattle Fish Company seasonality guide and all the latest news.