Market conditions for farm-raised Atlantic salmon are in a state of flux globally as we move into the summer season. Norwegian prices have turned higher on colder water temperatures and lower harvest weights. Contract prices, below the 40 NOK per kg. for most of the winter and spring, are now approaching that mark. Largest increases are seen in the 6 kg.-plus size. The Scottish and Faroe markets are steady, but may climb slightly as summer demand peaks. Seattle Fish Co. works directly with Norwegian and Scottish producers, flying several container loads of newly harvested salmon from the farms to Denver. Our expert staff of cutters hand cut whole salmon to your size and specifications. Chilean prices are steady, some predicting a bit lower in the coming weeks. A recent customs workers strike in Chile crippled export of fresh salmon and eroded confidence in the Chilean farm-raised salmon industry. The Northwest is producing steadily, prices are holding and we are increasing volume from this region. The wild salmon season in Alaska is expected to produce record volume, but to date there has been more fish escapement than harvest, primarily from Copper River. Prices have remained firm and hope its costs will ease. Troll kings, scarce last week, are starting to show in big numbers and prices have plummeted. There are great values in a troll king salmon special this weekend. Sockeye will run heavy through July, with retailers planning big July 4th ads.
Trout supply is good and is a perfect menu addition; great quality and taste at a value, dropping margin to the bottom line. Red meat trout seems to be a mountain favorite and on numerous resort menus. Speaking of red, production falls off during the heat of the summer. Fish become more lethargic and grow out is slowed. To augment our supply, we also buy red meat trout from a farmer growing excellent product in Utah. Prices of both flavors are comparable as is quality. Looking for another trout choice for your summer menu? Look no further than Loch Etive Scottish steelhead grown in a remote, pristine environment off the west coast of Scotland. Please note, all our trout is GMO free.
U.S. farm-raised catfish numbers continue to climb as our summer temperatures soar. As the largest catfish distributor, it is only fitting that our processing partner is the largest in the country and the only facility to attain Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification for its Mississippi processing plant. Volume is good and prices are reasonable and, of course, quality is superior. U.S catfish is heart healthy and the closed containment systems fed by pure aquifers ensure sustainability. Add catfish to your menu or feature shank fillets in your retail outlets.
The Alaska halibut season moves toward the halfway mark of the 2015 season with prices and production remaining steady, interrupted by summer storms or the fleet targeting other species. Demand for this favored whitefish has remained relatively stagnant the past few years, with price being the primary driver. Work continues on halibut bycatch controversy with no final resolution in sight. Halibut captured by large pollack or cod trawlers are required by law to discard any halibut bycatch, the number reaching several million pounds yearly. Quotas are cut as a result, making things difficult for the smaller fishermen, the lifeblood of the Alaska halibut industry. The struggle continues. Other ground fishing harvest is adequate, with shallow water Dover sole remaining tight as many boats target salmon. Pacific rock, both whole and fillet, are available, along with limited perch, petrale sole and arrowtooth flounder. Cod fishing is hit or miss with more pot-caught fish available in Canada. Troll king salmon is back in the fold in Neah Bay and the California Chinook season is once again open, but high winds are making any significant harvest difficult in Bodega and San Jose. We are still waiting for Mexican Bay scallop season to kick in, having seen extremely low numbers. No answers to where or why no scallop, but we’ll have a few gallons for the weekend. Other fish from the Southern Pacific area is good with choice of yellowtail, California halibut, fluke, rock and specialty items like live urchin and prepared uni. Catch of the week in SoCal is white sea bass, day boat fish hitting hard and fishermen reeling in large bass.
The West Coast crab markets are on the way up, with all forms of king crab moving up quickly. Red king crab is the fastest mover, but golden, or browns, are following the trend. The live crab markets in Japan and China are very strong, resulting in minimal brine frozen production. Opelio is available, but the Dungeness market remains tight, some prices hovering around an unprecedented $12 range. Not indigenous to the West Coast, but in the crab realm, importers seem to have healthy inventories of pasteurized crab. Falling prices have made buyers, including ourselves, cautious as prices fluctuate. Downward pressure on pricing will cause fishermen to move to more profitable species, starting the price cycle once again. The Mexican shrimp season is over, opening late September. The fishery seems to be recovering from EMS disease. Fishery improvement projects for the Mexican fleet continue and Seattle Fish Co. supports only shrimp companies who participate and embrace the FIP. Word from the Asian markets is prices would start to increase, lowering import numbers. Quite the opposite; shrimp imports are up 18.7 percent this year. Customers seem used to the higher prices and want shrimp back on the menu.
Summer and shellfish are not a good match, but care and diligence will keep good-quality product on the table. Oysters are starting to spawn on the West Coast and some choices will be narrowed as we move to triploid oysters. Trips have only one chromosome, incapable of reproduction, avoiding spawn. Environmental impacts, such as ocean acidification, affect oyster growth at the larvae stage. Warm water temperatures also invite vibrio and the rules have changed this year with the Department of Health in conjunction with the FDA rewriting the regulations. If water temperatures rise above a certain level, beds will automatically face closure sans further testing. East Coast Virginicas face some of the same hot weather issues as their West Coast cousins, but colder waters have less of an impact in this region. Variety is good and our Seattle Fish Co. will find a fit for you. One of our popular oysters is the Naked Cowboy, surely because of quality and not the guy cavorting New York’s Times Square. This Long Island oyster is wild caught, maturing slowly and taking up to three years to reach market size of three inches. Naked Cowboys are full, strongly mineral with a touch of iodine and deliciously briny. Divers pick the remarkably fresh Naked Cowboys five days a week, shipping directly to Seattle Fish Co.
Clam production from our Cape Cod growers is adequate, with no drop in quality. All our hard-shell clams are uniform with exact counts, perfect for food costing. One clam species not often thought of or ordered is soft-shell clams or steamers, one of my favorites. One drawback of steamers for some is the grit in the clam, but our clams are well purged to avoid this issue. Want them shucked? We can get them for you. A bucket of steamers in broth with a great baguette is hard to beat. Mussels are also weaker this time of year, so keep inventories minimal, well iced, with proper drainage. Order early, order often.
High winds kept fishing boats at bay last week, but gulf tuna production should be good this week. Excellent quality sushi-grade and plus will be available at reasonable prices all week. Value, small tuna loins are perfect for summer salads or sliders. The reef fishery in the gulf has been limited lately with rough weather. The Gulf Wild grouper boats docked with some catch, but our Galveston fishermen are send Gulf Wild American red snapper. Mahi is available but quantities are limited and prices remain high. Summer is not mahi season and this year has been especially difficult. The gulf shrimp season is on, getting into full swing by mid-July. Rock shrimp are once again available; ask about our chem-free gulf pink shrimp.
Wide-body jets are once again flying directly to Denver from Hawaii and the Honolulu fish auction. Numbers this past weekend were quite low, but hoping for excellent choice and price this week. Kajiki (blue marlin), monchong, opah and swordfish have led the way. Looking for some ground fish? We had uku, Hawaiian grey snapper, last week. Hawaiian kampachi is the perfect light, sushi-quality summer fish. While not in full production, supply has been steady.
We hope all you fathers out there had wonderful Father’s Day celebrations with your families. As always, refer to our product guide and other valuable Seattle Fish Co. information on our website.
Director of Purchasing