17 Feb 2015

Market Report – Feb. 16th 2015

February 17, 2015


Salmon, the second most consumed seafood in the world, is 75% farm-raised. Global production in 2014 topped three million metric tons, continuing its yearly rise, as wild consumption remains flat, actually dipping slightly last year. The dominant salmon species is Atlantic, with Norway accounting for over half of all production. Looking, listening, and reading salmon statistics can be like watching paint dry, but are telling. 2014 was a good year for the consumer; total salmon supply grew 9%, the Russian embargo of Norwegian salmon allowed growth in new markets, a stronger dollar created lower prices and there was overall growth in major salmon producing markets. Any clouds on the horizon? Large, populous countries like China, Brazil and Russia are voracious, with demand continuing to grow. Global farmed salmon production is expected to slow to 3% growth this year, and the threat of disease outbreak is one step away from a shoddy producer in a region. We expect prices to tick up with Lenten demand, but do not expect the large swings of years past. As usual, Seattle Fish Co. offers a complete array of Atlantic salmon choices. Weekly shipments direct from European farms supply our customers with Norwegian and Scottish salmon, excellent quality at preferred pricing. Canadian farmed salmon production has ramped up recently, making cost more competitive. Fish from Chilean farms provides quality salmon for our large ad customers. Skuna Bay craft salmon is hand picked, expertly packed and rushed directly to your kitchens. Globally active, Seattle Fish Co. is the pre-eminent salmon supplier in the Rocky Mountain region.

2014 was an excellent wild salmon season. The Copper River season looms around the corner and forecast is a bigger harvest this year. Great news as wild demand in our region increases yearly. The U.S. is the largest wild salmon producer, but most fish is exported. We intend to do our part to reverse that trend, so this is the year to put wild salmon on your menu all summer, starting with the sockeye openers, followed by coho and keta for our value customers. King open days will occur the entire season. Our wild salmon calendar will be on the exciting, new and improved Seattle Fish Co. website, when published. Seattle Fish Co. embraces the Alaska wild salmon fishery, a model for seafood sustainability.

Trout is likely on most restaurant menus and certainly a staple in your favorite retail store. Most of that trout comes from Seattle Fish Co., with great variety and the special cuts perfect for your needs. We offer both rainbow and red meat trout. We have often discussed Loch Etive Steelhead, a superior selection on our trout menu. From the same Scottish farms we offer a fillet version, somewhat smaller cut, a preferred price, but the same excellent quality. Look for Scottish steelhead in the trout section of your grocery store, flying out of the seafood counter with rave reviews. Ask your sales rep for details. Colorado trout from our friends at Frontier Trout is close to hitting the market in limited supply for a niche market. They will offer fresh, all-natural rainbow, cutthroat, German brown and brook trout. The farm is fed by pure water from a “confined” aquifer, fed into a closed-water system, assuring purity and complete sustainability.


If it’s Lent, U.S. farm-raised catfish is on ad. Supply is excellent and store seafood counters are full. Farmed catfish is not just a retail item. Food service restaurants find catfish an excellent food cost item, but the primary reason to put our catfish on the menu is the clean, non-brackish taste. We offer farmed catfish whole, skinned head off, fillets and catfish nuggets. Remember, catfish from Seattle Fish Co. comes from the only BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) certified plant in the country, another partner committed to doing the right thing.


The IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commission) approved a 6% increase in total allowable catch (TAC), matching last year’s Bering Sea quota. Many issues were discussed, including some uncertainty in catch data leaving room for quota increase. Severe social-economic need in remote regions of Alaska also played into the TAC determination. Controversy once again centered on by-catch halibut by the Bering Sea / Aleutian Island fleet. These huge trawlers targeting other species have caps for halibut, and the commission plans reduction on those caps to benefit the directed fleet in the region, with final implementation of those caps coming in 2016. The commission also recommended a more robust monitoring system to reduce halibut discards by the trawl fleet. Our halibut partners on Adak Island in the southern Aleutian chain welcome this news. Opening day is March 14. The Alaska cod season is steady with good volume and level pricing. Rock fishing in the U.S. is limited to by-catch, but adequate harvest in Canada,is filling demand. Speaking of rock, Seattle Fish Co.offers whole Canary rock this week. The rock fish family comes in many varieties of the same species, is mostly underutilized, plentiful and very sustainably caught. We plan to bring this and other whole fish species from the west coast, with full transparency to pass to your customers. Ask your salesrep about the weekly selections. Sablefish remains tight with frozen supply struggling to feed current demand. Other Northern Pacific ground fishing is adequate, especially petrale sole, on retail ad this week.

Southern Pacific waters are providing halibut, large fluke, yellowtail jack, Mexican Bay scallops, Mexican stone crab claws, and excellent supply of grouper with accompanying lower cost. Ask for a west coast grouper special this week. In Mexican waters, wild shrimp is still coming across the border in limited quantities. We will have another shot of Mexican wild caught shrimp hitting our dock next week. It is arguably the finest shrimp in the world, Seattle Fish Co. carries all sizes. Globally, 2014 was a year of shrimp recovery, but with caveat. Production increased about 10% and U.S. imports were up 12%. Disease is a constant problem, but farmers have found that cleanliness and sanitation is a substantial deterrent to disease. Recovery is driven primarily by India, Indonesia and Ecuador. If we have no major setbacks, global supply levels will not likely return to the 2011 peak until 2016. Seattle Fish Co. carries not only shell on shrimp, but value added peeled and deveined, raw and cooked, your one-stop shop for shrimp.


The east coast scallop season opens March 1. If the present round of fierce winter weather persists on the embattled eastern shores, boats may not be able to get out. The New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manage the fishery. A limited access fleet is managed by set allowable days at sea and certain access areas, and a Limited Access General Category (LAGC) fleet manages through set quotas. Quotas and days at sea are up somewhat this year, but large sizes will still be a challenge. Another scallop fishery in Maine is managed separately, but the season is very short, trips are limited to 200 lbs., and prices are high in an already very high market, accounting for a very small percentage of the total scallop harvest. Scallop quality is very dependent on how the catch is handled immediately after catch. Weather is also adversely affecting ground fishing. Price for the small amount of monk harvested is high, same for cod, haddock, hake and flat fish.

Live lobster harvest is also falling victim to the unprecedented volume of snow and extreme cold temperatures. We struggled to fill the tremendous demand for Valentine’s Day live lobsters. Prices are escalating rapidly, and will continue to climb through March. Spring thaw, if there is one, will bring much needed relief. Check with your lobster sales associate for current pricing and availability.


Here is an oyster quiz for all. How many oysters did we report flew out the door during the holiday season? If you can’t recall, the number was a record, and we blew by that volume this Valentine’s and President’s Day weekend. I am not sure one oyster was left in the house. Colorado is definitely a shell oyster mecca. Popularity is rampant and our expert oyster buyers and shellfish sales group bring you variety and information, making the oyster experience fun. The challenge is getting enough volume from the east coast. Many areas are closed, but most of our valued oyster vendor/partners came through. Event the higher priced west coast specialty oysters sold out. One of the biggest oyster growers on the west coast is bullish on the future of oyster production in Washington state in spite of the threats of ocean acidification. One area of growth, Willapa Bay will see increased production of Shigoku oysters. These oysters are grown in floating bags, like many of the Pacific oysters, but these bags are attached to lines that rise and fall with the tides, tumbled twice a day, continuously hardening and chipping off the rough edges, forcing the oyster to “cup up” pushing the limits of their shell. Shigoku in Japanese means “ultimate,” and that is what you get: an oyster with a clean light taste of cucumber and salt, with a “finish of water chestnut and Jerusalem artichoke.” Another popular Valentine oyster is the French Kiss. We are not sure if our customers ordered these gems just because of the name, but this is a rock star choice. If you are familiar with the popular Beau Soleil oyster, French Kisses are a pumped up version. They are raised in Miramichi Bay in hard plastic mesh bags well tumbled by the constant tidal exchange. Periodically the bags are flipped, exposed to sun and air, strengthening adductor muscles by keeping valves tightly shut. End result? You get a clean oyster with perfect brine and a very sweet finish. You need to order a French Kiss in advance.

Clams from our Dennis, Massachusetts, friends are non-existent, their harvest decimated by the harsh weather. We have substituted middle neck clams from Florida farms, but larger cherrystones and other northern Atlantic hard shell varieties are unavailable. Hopefully weeks end will bring better news. Manila clams from the west coast are steady, easing the clam crunch. Unfortunately mussel shipments off Prince Edward Island will not make the journey across Federation Bridge, causing PEI mussel shortage. Try some of our excellent Penn Cove mussels from Washington state this weekend. Casco Island is one of the hardest hit areas in the eastern seaboard, limiting supply of Bangs Island mussels. Even through hardship, Seattle Fish Co. is your Rocky Mountain shellfish connection.


We are back in the gulf tuna business with good volume and lower prices. Supply of small retail tunas is good, and quality is excellent. A few gulf swordfish boats are docking, but sword prices have not dropped. Production from other regions of the world and Hawaii has not bumped up yet. New Zealand is starting to produce quality swords this past week. Valentine’s Day is a great snapper day, and our Gulf Wild snapper fishermen did not disappoint. Good volume of all sizes filled restaurant and retail needs. Gulf Wild snapper is listed as a good alternative in the Sea Watch ranking system, for good reason. This alliance of gulf fishermen adheres to catch shares, uses proper gear, is fully transparent with location of catch and does it right. Its efforts have been instrumental in the resurgence of gulf reef fishery. Grouper production this week is short, but good volume from Mexico will fill the bill. A fish not indigenous to the gulf, but worth a comment is Chilean sea bass, a popular whitefish entering the U.S. thorough many southern ports. This fish was red listed a few short years ago, but has received MSC and MBA Certification in many regions, leading restaurants and retailers to feel comfortable featuring Chilean sea bass. We have seen consumers willing to pay higher prices, but the peak appears near as prices have climbed to new highs. Illegal fishing has been clamped, further enhancing Chilean bass status.


Volume on the Honolulu auction is increasing, and prices are coming more in line. Last weekend brought a shipment of Hawaiian tuna, monchong, stripe marlin and whole opah. This excellent moonfish is a superior grill fish with favored top loin steaks. Largely overlooked is the opah bottom loin, lighter in color and well marbled.   The bottom loin is much less expensive than the top loin, but try it grilled and you will be an instant fan. Ask your rep for opah bottom loin, a good value. The Hawaiian sword season is coming soon, hopefully reducing costs. Hawaiian Kampachi is still a once a week harvest as pen grow-out continues. A pristine fish harvested in the deep ocean off the coast of Kona, kampachi can be served sushi style, crudo or seared rare for a perfect presentation.

Please check out our new and very improved website; up to date, visually appealing, and informative, enhancing your Seattle Fish Co. Seafood experience.


Harry Mahlers

Harry Mahleres
Director of Purchasing

303-329-9595 ext. 121