Atlantic salmon continues to dominate the scene, but wild fishery openers are right around the corner. We should see some Columbia River kings this week or next, and the California Chinook season kicks off May 1. Chilean Atlantic prices remain stable to slightly lower against quiet demand. Global competition and adequate production are primary price drivers. All our major retail salmon ads feature Chilean fish, but this week Norwegian fillets are highlighted. Excellent quality and pricing dominates Norwegian fillet ad week. Premium Scottish salmon leads foodservice choice with 5-8 kg sized fish cut to your exact specification. If processing in your kitchen is preferred, we will send them to you head-on dressed. The Canadian farmed salmon community is also very competitive and making inroads on our global salmon menu. Atlantic farm-raised salmon is very popular in our region, but per capita U.S. salmon consumption is down. The U.S. is still number one in worldwide consumption, but China is nipping at her heels. “It’s only a matter of time” when China takes the number one spot, stated a current industry leader at the recent North Atlantic Seafood Forum Conference in Bergen, Norway.
Anticipation for the wild salmon season seems to be running rampant this year, for good reason. Early reports from all regions portend a solid and long season. Our retail season traditionally kicks off with the Copper River sockeyes. Hot news off the press is major salmon producers representing 70% to 80% of the Alaska salmon catch have reached an agreement with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to resume selling their products under the certified standard. All will continue to embrace the RMF (Responsible Fishery Management) eco-label set up by the industry and accepted by major retailers, giving buyers a choice. Until volumes of fresh fish arrive, we offer great bargains in quality frozen wild salmon. Ask your rep about the superior frozen individually vacuum-packed sockeye fillets we carry. Prices are at an all-time low for these favored reds. Still available is frozen-at-sea Coho salmon from Kruzof Island, Alaska. Quality is impeccable; landed while still alive, fish are gutted, pressure-bled and blast-frozen on board less than one hour after landing. We still have a few premium kings available, too.
Farm-raised trout supply and pricing is excellent. Need a specific size or cut? We have it, red meat or rainbow. Perfect for your menu costs or a retail case leader, farm-raised trout is a Colorado favorite. We offer single-lobe premium cuts, butterflied headless, pin-bone-out fillets or head-on dressed fish.
The U.S. Farm Raised Catfish industry will see a slowdown in production until July, when the new generation comes to market. Prices have firmed, slightly driven by supply and feed prices. Commitment from our catfish partner, the only BAP-certified farmer in the country, is solid and catfish supply for our customers in the Rocky Mountains region should continue uninterrupted. BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) is science-based, setting standards throughout the entire supply chain – farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed.
Alaska halibut landings to date exceed 850,000 pounds of the total allowable catch of 17,136,921, on par for the first month of the season. Prices have scooted up, a combination of boats docking for the Easter celebration and rough weather rocking the fishing grounds. Expectation for pricing as we head toward the summer season is stability. The biggest buzz from the northern Pacific fishing region is the Copper River season, slated to open mid-May, but ADF&G will not announce until the first week of May. Openers are generally scheduled on Thursday and Monday, leading conventional wisdom to May 14, but May 11 or May 18 may be in play. Regardless, Seattle Fish Co. will be ready to be first on the street with beautiful Copper River sockeyes. The ADF&G will be looking at river levels with intention of placing sonar gear running along the north and south bank sites near the Million Dollar Bridge by May 9. Once again this year, Copper kings will be very limited, with the game and fish announcing numerous inside water closures where kings reside. The forecast for sockeye looks excellent. Taken last year were 2.07 million fish from a forecast of 1.87 million. Forecast numbers for 2015 are expected to reach 2.44 million fish. Conversely, the 2014 Copper king forecast called for 22,000 fish with an actual catch of 9,630; the forecast was decreased to 5,500 fish this year. King prices this year will undoubtedly open at record levels. Let the fun begin. Salmon, of course, is the sexy topic, but the west coast fishery is replete with many species. Fresh sable season is open with beautiful headed and gutted bullets fresh off FV Garde Marie captained by skipper/owner Roley Gagnon. Other selections include Pacific shallow water Dover sole, Pacific cod, flounder and rock cod. While we are on the rock cod subject, take a look at our whole rock cod offerings, all good choice by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Selections this week include Canary and Yelloweye, Chilipepper rockfish from Morro Bay, California, and rougheye hailing from Neah Bay, Washington. Further south, a few king salmon are being landed off the Oregon coast, but prices are very steep. Columbia River kings will be a better choice later in the week. Southern California vessels are harvesting yellowtail, local corvina, and California halibut. Urchin divers are facing high surf, hampering the catch. Hopefully uni trays will be available later in the week. The Dungeness crab season is all but over; or did it ever start? This year’s harvest will fall significantly short of the 10-year average of 19-23 million pounds. Prices, obviously, are at record levels. Given the cyclical movement of Dungeness crab, don’t expect a banner year in 2016. There are no stock assessments on Dungeness crab, so predictions are an educated guess.
The Mexican shrimp season is drawing to a close with one or two more loads crossing. The new season will begin in late September. Significant to our Mexican shrimp selection is all our producers are part of the Gulf of California/Mexico Shrimp Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) championed by our sustainable seafood partner, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP). Fishing vessels are required to adhere to fishing area limitations, improve fishing gear such as lighter doors, TEDs (turtle escapement devices), fish escapement nets, and boat observers.
We have not seen much improvement in the live lobster market. Prices have increased this week and are likely to stay high until the Maine season perks up mid-May. Prices will come down, but not to the levels of the past two years. For special events, order your lobsters in specially designed cloud pack cartons, safeguarding your lobster investment. Soft crab are starting to show on the Chesapeake. Our sales crew will advise on availability and pricing. The northeast scallop season is in full swing a month into the season; U-10 and larger sizes are still a premium, but smaller sizes are more available at lower cost. Monkfish landings are steady, as are ground fish such as haddock, pollock and cod. Flat fish, soles and dabs are more plentiful, and prices have finally dipped. The striped bass season is over, with volume limited to by-catch. The striped bass fishery has been reduced 20% this season, limiting landings and keeping prices firm. The next big striped bass opener is the Massachusetts large fish season in early July. Our Island Creek oyster friends in Duxbury love to cast their lines in the water this time of year looking to land a 30- to 40-pound striper. Sounds perfect: oysters and grilled striped bass on the beach. Boston mackerel, skate and live scallops in the shell round out a typical east coast menu. Planning a fish and chips menu? Try dogfish shark, an inexpensive and underutilized species, sustainable and very inexpensive. Ask your East Coast Seattle Fish Co. seafood expert for details.
Oysters are like fine wine. Different varietals, regions and tucked-away wineries draw our interest and attention, just like each bay or inlet gives oysters that special genetic stamp and unique flavor. After Lent and closing of the resort areas during the mud season, seafood sales dip somewhat. Atypical to the trend are oyster sales, blowing up weekly. Don’t have oysters on your menu? Get with your oyster sales expert and join the crowd. As reported, the east coast shellfish industry has taken weather body blows this winter, but oyster selection is growing as the weather warms, except for Canadian oysters. West coast choice remains strong with good volume. Challenges will come with the summer spawn season as we lean on triploid oyster production, expected to be less abundant than last season. Did we predict the mussel season may get worse before it gets better? We have had some windows of harvest from Prince Edward Island, but constantly shifting mini icebergs had rendered fishing a matter of luck and dangerous conditions. Our choices this week look to be limited to domestic production as our PEI mussel friends predict little or no harvest. Is it spring yet? Bangs Island mussels from Casco Bay, Maine are available, but only once a week. Further south on the cape, our hard-shell clam partners are harvesting regularly again. Consistency in size, count, price and most importantly taste, keeps our customers coming back. Manila clams from the west coast are plentiful and very strong this time of year. Chocolate clams are available now by special order and razors are at the mercy of tides and weather. Seattle Fish Co. is your one-stop shellfish market.
Tuna fishing vessels are back in the water after the Easter break, increasing gulf tuna levels later this week. Prices are steady with lackluster demand. Gulf Wild grouper continues to remain somewhat tight, but American Red Snapper is readily available. Grouper and snapper are part of the very important gulf reef fishery, which includes amberjack, triggerfish, hogfish, red porgy and tile fish. Highly regulated, the reef fishery is critical to the commercial fishing industry in the gulf. Seattle Fish Co. lauds all efforts to maintain and support good fishing practices. The same level of regulation cannot be said for the recreational red snapper segment, very popular in the gulf. Recreational fishermen are actively seeking a greater portion of the red snapper pot. Swordfish prices are steady, but mahi has climbed to very high levels, making California yellowtail or gulf amberjack a reasonable substitute.
Ice floes and winter are finally releasing their grip on the Great Lakes, making walleye, whitefish and other lake species more available. The Great Lakes unofficial opening is May 1. Freshwater species are always a restaurant favorite. Lake perch is occasionally available by special order. Check with your rep for details.
Hawaiian Kampachi is harvesting from new pens and fish size has been reduced to a 2.5-pound average. Sizing should increase by early summer. Kampachi is grown in pristine deep sea pens off the coast of Kona, Hawaii. A true sashimi quality fish, Hawaiian Kampachi is responsibly raised and arrives on our dock a day and a half from harvest. Raw, seared or crudo, Kampachi is an excellent menu choice. The Honolulu auction is maintaining a good volume of fish, especially local swordfish. Prices are good and quality is superior. The tuna numbers are firm, but other great choices abound, including opah, marlin, ono, and last week reasonably priced uku, Hawaiian grey snapper, quickly snapped up by one of our mountain restaurant accounts. When volume and pricing cooperate, we give our Hawaiian buyers a buy wish list. They bid for each fish on that day’s auction, boxed and shipped directly to Denver.
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Director of Purchasing