The salmon story continues to revolve around costs. Recent news highlighted a major U.S. retail chain selling farmed salmon cheaper than tilapia, even though salmon is considered a higher-end product. Price wheelhouse is for smaller fish yielding 1-2 lb. or 2-3 lb. fillets. The best bargains come from Chile, but good news for the consumer does not necessarily bode well for the Chilean producers struggling to sell salmon at profitable prices. With Alaska having a good wild season, Canadian volume adequate and more Norwegian salmon available, Seattle Fish Co. offers our retail and foodservice customer diversity. Even though cost may be the story, responsible sourcing is a higher priority. All of our farms are BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) certified to varying levels. Most sources believe the current market conditions are unsustainable. Look for prices to climb slightly with increased holiday demand. Q1 2016 should see even more increases as production levels taper.
The wild season is over, but wild sales are not. Your favorite retail outlets are carrying refreshed sockeye fillets that, truthfully, look and taste as good as fresh. These fish are brine frozen immediately upon harvest, maintaining cell structure. These are not just for the grocery stores; try a sockeye salmon special this weekend. Ask your sales rep for details.
Farm-raised trout supply, especially red meat variety, is good, with steady volume for the busy winter season. Colorado trout is showing life with more customers looking to add a local product to their menus, even at a slightly higher price point. Makes sense; trout fishing is a main Colorado attraction. Looking for a premium trout for your winter menu? We have been asked that question before, and most know the answer is Loch Etive Scottish Steelhead. If you haven’t tried Loch Etive, plan on a fish with great taste and one raised with no antibiotics, hormones or growth promoters. Located in the icy waters of western Scotland, Loch Etive farms sites are fallowed, allowing constant rejuvenation. A truly superior offering; try it today.
U.S. farm-raised catfish is becoming more popular, and with good reason. Volume is good, and we partner with the only BAP certified producer in the country. Our producer is vertically integrated, controlling every step in the production process. Retail ad offerings and foodservice catfish menu specials are on the table. Look to your Seattle Fish Co. sales specialist for guidance.
The Alaskan and Canadian halibut season just ended, and fresh sales are tapering this week. Taking up the slack will be refreshed halibut. Our very successful program gives our customers access to Alaskan halibut all winter long. We have perfected the art of properly thawing fish to provide excellent quality. Keep Alaskan halibut on your menus this winter. Next season opens mid-March.
One Alaskan season ends, and another begins; big news centered on crab, not only Alaskan king but Dungeness down the western U.S. coast. As predicted, king crab prices opened higher than last year. Demand is still high, and quotas are similar to last year. Alaska Bairdi will be available in larger quantities this year, but volume won’t be known until the king crab season is over. The opilio crab quota has been dramatically reduced, moving prices up quickly. With the outlook of higher king crab prices, Seattle Fish Co. has taken a position on large brown king crab legs at lower than market pricing; this is a perfect opportunity to put king crab legs on your holiday menu. Further south along the Pacific coast, the Dungeness crab season, considered a birthright in California, is in serious jeopardy. The culprit is Domoic acid, a neurotoxin that causes nausea and dizziness at low levels and short-term memory loss at higher levels. High temperatures from El Nino created this toxic algae bloom. The recreational season in California has been shut down until levels are deemed safe. This news coming on the heels of two poor seasons will mean even higher prices this year. Upper acid levels of 36 ppm for viscera and 20 ppm for meat have been well exceeded in areas south of Brookings, California. Oregon and Washington catch remains unaffected; all testing shows product is safe. Dungeness meat prices have also soared.
Ground fish supply has been sporadic, a result of bad weather. Shallow water Dover sole has been very tight, but with breaking weather, boats were out this past weekend, indicating good weekend volume. Another storm system looms, and is likely to blow smaller vessels in, but hopefully the fleet can return to port in staggered intervals. Rock supply is good, with volume from both Canada and the U.S. We remain true to our sustainability message and commitment, and recommend that you try whole Splitnose rock, day boat catch of F/V Valouras, captained by Bill Hanson. This Neah Bay gem is green rated (best choice) by Monterey Bay. Seattle Fish Co. is dedicated to introducing underutilized species. Southern California is yielding adequate supply of grouper and Mexican bay scallops, and increasing quantity of California halibut and yellowtail. As always, live urchin from Cabrillo Bay in San Diego is available on request.
The Mexican shrimp season is in full swing, and early shipments have arrived. Prices are mirroring last year. We will offer value-added cooked and raw peeled and deveined as available. The distinctive pop and flavor of a Mexican shrimp is undeniable. Look to Seattle Fish Co. to fill all your shrimp needs. Globally, there are mixed signals coming from so-called experts in the field regarding production levels. Some are calling for lower production in 2016, but word from the recent GAA conference recently held in Vancouver indicated shrimp production would be up by 8% annually until 2017. We do know prices have leveled out, and if anything, we will see slight increases through the holiday season and into Q1 2016.
Ground fishing in the waters off the Northeast is adequate for limited demand. Large monktails were tight this weekend, but will show improvement later in the week. Haddock supply is good, unlike New England cod, as much of our eastern cod supply ships directly from Iceland to Denver. Stripers from the mid-Atlantic are available in larger sizes, and prices have eased; ditto for large and jumbo wild black bass. Retailers are putting in their orders for East Coast shucked oysters for Thanksgiving. If you are looking for a gallon or two of selects, please give your sales rep some notice. Business will be brisk, and you want to make sure needs are met. As reported, the East Coast domestic scallop outlook is somewhat bleak. Some producers are running short on large U-10 size dry scallops. Customers may want to consider a smaller size for the winter season. The good news is that next season looks to be better, with increased quotas and days at sea. The scallop biomass has been increasing the past few years, and more juveniles should be ready for harvest. We applaud proper management for the viability of the stock.
Live lobster prices are flat this week, a trend that is expected to continue until mid-December. For best value, buy your lobsters in pre-packed 32- or 21-count cloud-pack boxes. We are looking to offer a 10-count case.
Speaking of spawning, weak and limited oyster selection is over. We are now in the season when oysters from both coasts are ready to sing to your palate. Varieties are excellent, and our Seattle Fish Co. shellfish experts will guide you through the delightful menu. We concentrate on our U.S. coasts, but we will take a look at an oyster from the other side of the world, New Zealand’s Kaipara oyster, more a West Coast style than East Coast. This oyster is highlighted by a watermelon finish and a silky texture. The burst of flavor is perfect with your favorite Muscadet. Our East Coast featured oyster this week is the Wellfleet, once the favored East Coast choice that fell on some hard times, but is back to its original splendor. The town of Wellfleet leases about 200 acres in the tidal estuaries in and around Wellfleet Harbor. Why are these oysters so good? Like our famous Coors beer, the secret is the water. Tidal flows from the Gulf of Maine bring nutrient-rich feed. During low tide, Wellfleets are warmed by the sun and tumbled as the tide rolls in, creating a smooth shell. Voracious feeding allows Wellfleet to grow quickly. Meat fill is excellent, with a sweet blast of salinity. Oysters are one of the most productive animals of the ecosystem, filtering a whopping 15 gallons of water daily.
Mussels are equally healthy, with good meat fill and maximum shelf life. Prince Edward Island is home to the bulk of our mussel production, but we source domestically from Cape Cod. Bangs Island mussels share the same nutrient-laden waters from the Gulf of Maine as Wellfleet, and will soon be back on board. Even though mussels are much stronger this time of year, continue to store your product in heavy ice, and keep it well drained. Hard-shell clams from Dennis, Massachusetts, are sweet and plump, and supply is solid. Our longtime packers ship littleneck, pasta necks, cherrystones and top necks in exact count retail and foodservice bags. For your quick-popping clam needs, try our excellent manilas from the West Coast or New Zealand cockles. Specialty offerings are razor clams as tides allow, chocolate and blood clams. Seattle Fish Co. is your holiday shellfish headquarters.
The mahi season opened October 1, with little fanfare, limited catch and high prices. Catch is finally up, and we are starting to see lower prices and better quality. Now is the time to think about mahi-mahi for your winter menus. The mahi fishery is working on improving its fisheries in Central and South America with better fishing methods, working to reduce by-catch. We will work with those shippers whenever possible. Our Gulf Wild partner has greatly improved its reef fishing grounds. Grouper and American red snapper, as well as tile fish, are individually tagged when caught and labeled with boat, captain and area of catch providence. All members of Gulf Wild adhere to catch shares and proper hook-and-line fishing methods. Swordfish has tightened somewhat this week, but volumes are adequate, and prices are still very reasonable. Gulf tuna boats are hit and miss dodging fall hurricanes. A Dulac, Louisiana, boat landed last night with fresh Gulf tuna available today. Speaking of tuna, our specialty ULT tuna program is right around the corner. This ultra-low-temperature tuna is blast frozen at minus 40 degrees, maintaining full cell structure and texture. More information to come.
Honolulu auction numbers are adequate for less than full demand. The winter tourist season has not begun in earnest in Hawaii, and similarly, business locally is quiet, so no Hawaiian connection last week. We will check with our auction buyers today for average prices. If they are reasonable, we will issue a wish list order, and our buyers will go row by row, bidding on the fish we need. The day’s catch is iced, boxed and shipped directly to Denver. Don’t forget about our open ocean penned Hawaiian Kampachi. This farmed saltwater beauty is harvested by divers, processed and shipped to our dock; it’s a superior sushi-quality fish. Go Hawaii, go Seattle Fish Co.
Please check out our website for fish news, specials and our extensive seafood guide.
Director of Purchasing