In the farm-raised Atlantic salmon world, stability has been the norm — at least, for the last two weeks! To date, prices have remained somewhat static, but processors are now cashing in on lower salmon prices, pushing the needle up somewhat. A significant amount of farmed salmon has been processed into frozen fillets or portions, reducing the surplus. Production in Chile has not ramped, nor will it, but with soft demand due to the excellent wild season, prices have not increased. It will be interesting to see what scenario we face in the fall and towards the holidays. Canadian salmon producers have also kept costs level. European salmon prices are on the rise, at least through July. Contributing to this increase are reduced volumes, the shutdown of some plants for the summer holidays, and new-generation, smaller fish. Our Scottish farmers are working hard to keep up with our customers' insatiable demand for direct-from-the-farms Scottish salmon. We are contemplating adding a third container load to fill this burgeoning demand. We also add premium Norwegian salmon fillets and whole fish into the mix, creating the perfect mix for your tables and retail cases.
Skuna Bay Craft Salmon is back to full production, and the fish are better than ever. We certainly understand the consternation you feel when one of your prized menu items goes off-line, but as in any farming business, nature rules. If you used Skuna before, it's time to get back on board — and if not, ask for a sample and you will. You'll be treated to a product that is premium craft raised, hand selected, hand checked for excellence, individually packed into a new thermal heat-resistant sealed box, signed by the packer and delivered to your door. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.
Wild salmon reigns supreme this time of year. Troll Kings are hitting the lines over in Alaska, from Southeast open waters to Nushagak, Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet and many other regions. Tremendous catch from California waters around Bodega Bay and San Jose has flooded the king market, so look for favorable chinook pricing this week. The sockeye market is equally plentiful, with Bristol Bay primed to produce significant numbers. Bristol Bay is a very remote region, and the bulk of that catch goes to the frozen whole and fillet market. The Coho season is also starting to ramp, with beautiful fish coming from Snow Pass, Alaska. The Coho season will run well into the fall. Yukon Keta, a truly sustainable fishery handed down from generation to generation of Yupik people, provides a superior wild salmon offering that is also reasonably priced.
Farm-raised trout production is entering the time of year when hot summer temperatures slow the rate at which fish feed (and their subsequent growth). Larger single-lobe fillets will be scarce for the next 6 – 8 weeks. Supply should be adequate, but customers will need to adjust, going to an 8 oz. butterfly product in place of a single-lobe 8 oz. fillet. Larger red sizes will also be harder to find. Our Loch Etive Scottish steelhead is plentiful and perfect for those light summer fish specials.
The U.S. farm-raised catfish supply remains adequate, but sizing has not increased as quickly as was earlier predicted. Here, too, summer heat in the Delta has stifled the usually voracious catfish feeding habits, and overall fillet sizes remain small. The good news is that American catfish is a truly sustainably raised fish, and our farms are the only BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice)-certified farms in the U.S.
Fifty-five percent of the total allowable Pacific halibut catch has been landed, with over 60 percent of that total captured in the Gulf of Alaska and 65 percent plus captured in Southeast. The significance of this is that with the season less than half over, virtually no frozen halibut has been processed. Coupled with empty freezers, the outlook for fresh and frozen halibut this year looks bleak. Fresh prices are high, easily surpassing last year’s average, and fish sizing is smaller, with 20-plus halibut a premium. The silver lining in all this cloudy news is that Adak is starting to produce more, and quotas in this region have not been tapped as much as in other regions. Captain Steve Stark aboard F/V Selah arrived at the Adak docks Saturday afternoon. Our load was off-loaded, packed and shipped directly to Denver, along with some beautiful short-trip sable fish.
Wild salmon fishing on all levels dominates the Alaska fishing scene, with ground fishing taking a backseat. Pacific cod has been very scarce, while catch of rock, shallow-water dover sole, arrowtooth flounder and petrale sole is adequate. California waters are yielding green thresher shark, bay scallops, yellowtail, California white bass, world-renowned uni and live urchin. The Mexican shrimp season is over, and fishing is not scheduled to start again until late September. Overall, the worldwide shrimp market traveled a rocky road during the first half of this year. Big sizes are still scarce, and buyers remain unsure of what path to take. What is certain is that distributors nationwide have not taken firm positions with regard to supply, leaving importers uncertain. Buyers are still buying hand-to-mouth while waiting for prices to reach the bottom. Based on anticipated volume for the balance of the year, we believe we have reached the bottom, and that prices will likely now rise. Conclusion: For now, restaurants and retailers have replaced or downsized some of their shrimp choices, and it will take some time and a more stable market to re-establish shrimp demand for their customers.
Domestic live lobster prices have taken a jump in price, due primarily to the molting season in New England. Canada has seen great production, putting downward pressure on prices, but its season is drawing to a close. Prices will continue to increase until we see shippable new-shell Maine lobsters later in July. We carry all sizes, and this week, we are installing a state-of-the-art lobster holding system in our newly expanded and refurbished plant. For larger events, order your lobsters in our specially manufactured 21- or 32-count cloud-pack lobster suitcases.
Scallop production is steady, and pricing remains unchanged this week. Large sizes are still tight, and many customers have switched to a smaller scallop — a trend likely to continue through the scallop season. Spawning scallops have not been an issue of late, and we caution our producers to avoid those regions. Good supply of cod from both New England and Iceland fills the West Coast void. Dabs, pollack, haddock and hake are adequate to meet the limited demand. Maine sardines are running at this time; call your Seattle Fish Company sales rep for details.
Hot weather in July is great for 4th-of-July celebrations, but not so good for oysters. Neither is the recent tropical storm along the Eastern Seaboard, which prompted some closures during the 4th-of-July holiday weekend. Warmer weather also brings with it the risk of illness to oysters intended for raw consumption from naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. As your trusted oyster source, Seattle Fish Company takes the proper steps to maintain the "cold chain" from the producer to your door. Remember, once delivered, oysters need to be kept cold to prevent any possibility of Vibrio growth. At 50 degrees, Vibrio stops growing — but at 65 degrees, Vibrio can double in 5 hours, and at 80 degrees, doubles in just 1.5 hours. So keep your shellfish cold.
This season is equally challenging for oyster growth. We have been reporting that the very cold winter stunted oyster growth along the Eastern Seaboard. While selection is good, sizing is generally cocktail size (i.e., less than three inches), a condition likely to continue through mid to late summer. But even though sizes are running a bit smaller, quality is excellent. Our feature oyster this week is 38 Degree North (named for both the latitude and temperature of the waters from which it is harvested). This oyster comes from the “big waters” of Chesapeake Bay, capturing a firm, very meaty oyster with just the right degree of salinity. Oysters are grown in floating cages that take advantage of tidal exchange to perfect their size, shape and health. The 38 Degree North is one of the five oyster types grown in the United States — a "Crassostrea Virginica" or "Eastern" oyster. Try them raw, baked, broiled or breaded. Order a bag today from your Seattle Fish Company shellfish monger.
Mussels also love cold, so store them with plenty of ice in a well-drained area. Our Prince Edward Island suppliers have successfully avoided the worst mussel spawning regions in Canada this summer, keeping quality issues to a minimum. Unfortunately, Bangs Island mussels are not out of their red tide closure, but we are hopeful that shipments will commence shortly. Hard-shell supply from Dennis, Massachusetts, is good, and cherrystones, which have been in short supply for most of the summer, are once again in stock. Other shellfish selections include manila clams, razors, urchin (when tides are favorable) and chocolate clams (by special order).
Tuna boats are arriving at the Dulac, Louisiana docks with more frequency to provide quality Gulf yellowfin tuna. Combined with our hand-graded fish from Costa Rica, Sri Lanka and the Hawaiian auction, supply is good. Swordfish catch is sporadic, and prices have remained firm, but adequate supply is not an issue. Mahi prices are at their summer highs, but our buyers recently visited a new day-boat fishery in Guatemala and report excellent quality. We will bring in our first shipment when logistics are completed. Consistency from our Gulf Wild fishermen has allowed continuous supply of American red snapper and grouper. Porgy and tilefish have been recent additions to our Gulf Wild menu. If you want to know where your red snapper came from, check out the Gulf Wild tag included with your order — just go to mygulfwild.com and enter the tag number; the name of the boat, boat captain and exact area of the catch will pop right up. You can even see the type of fishing gear used.
Volume at the Honolulu auction was very good last week, and you likely took advantage of tuna, marlin, opah, spearfish (hebi) and monchong. We are looking for similar success this week. Hawaiian Kampachi are growing and sizing is close to normal, which is good news — but on the other side of the scale, the harvest period will remain once a week into the first half of 2015. Expansion plans are proceeding, and the process should conclude positively. Hawaiian Kampachi is harvested, chilled and sent immediately to Denver, still in rigor.
Check our seasonality guide for summer menu ideas. We trust all had a fun, and safe 4th-of-July break. A special thank-you goes out to all who keep our country and way of life independent.