05 Jan 2016

Market Report – January 5, 2016

January 05, 2016


The salmon report for 2016 starts on a high note. Spot salmon prices out of Norway are at levels not seen since 1987, up for the fourth consecutive week. The NOK is hovering at the 57 level looking to peak in the 60s. By comparison, third quarter 2015 showed NOK at less than 40. We expect Atlantic salmon prices to continue stronger through Q1 2016. That said, contract and volume buying from our premium Euro salmon providers again makes Seattle Fish Co. your Scottish and Norwegian go-to supplier. A  steady volume of Scottish salmon arrives weekly, hampered recently by severe air freight delays during the holiday season, but back on track. Retail stores will be featuring Atlantic salmon ads the entire month.

Chilean salmon prices have also crept upward and should follow the same trend as the European fish. Low prices have not met production costs in Chile, prompting losses and more talk of consolidation. We are hearing conjecture from industry experts, but no one seems to be sure of the fallout. Canadian production is down with primarily larger, more expensive fish the norm, further constricting global supply. Our premium Canadian salmon supplier, Skuna Bay, will see a temporary shortfall, primarily whole fish, the first half of the month as farm sites are rotated. Judging from demand for Skuna from our Colorado, Wyoming and new Utah customers, Skuna Bay salmon is favored by many chefs. And why not ‒ Skuna is hand selected for excellence. Each box is packed by your craft salmon farmer and personally signed off for quality and accuracy. You always know what you get with Skuna Bay salmon. Skuna Bay prices will follow the Atlantic market and move up Q1.

Winter Alaska salmon choices are primarily frozen. Fresh winter trolls, when offered, come with a very high price tag. We do very well during the winter months with our refreshed sockeye fillet program. Primarily a retail special, they are available for food service. Frozen fillets are also available.

One surmises farm-raised trout should always be plentiful. If you have the demand, just put more fish in the water. Well, it’s not quite that simple and without getting into all the intricacies of raising trout, volume is down at this time, especially for red trout. We still have a weekly shipment of reds from our Utah farm to help ease the shortfall. Trout is a winter bargain and Seattle Fish Co. offers a great variety of cuts.


U.S. farm-raised catfish market remains steady, but increasing demand as Lent approaches will limit supply. Our Itta Bena, Mississippi, live catfish processors are committed to provide adequate quantities throughout the spring. Like trout, catfish is an excellent, sustainable protein to add to your menu and retail offering.


Ground fish availability out of the Northwest is limited with most vessels tied up for the holidays. We will see minimal supply of rock, shallow water dover, arrow tooth flounder and perch until midmonth. The Alaska Pacific cod season opened January 1, so some vessels are out harvesting fish. Volume will increase as the season progresses. Halibut is in the news this month even though we are a couple months away from the mid-March season opener. The yearly meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) is scheduled for the week of January 25 in Juneau, Alaska. Established in 1923, the IPHC exists for the preservation of Pacific halibut in the waters off Canada and the United States of America. Most observers predict another quota cut this year, but other topics such as incidental halibut by-catch will be on the docket. The Pacific Dungeness crab season, postponed for the holiday season, is open north of the California line. Domoic acid level, a result of a widespread algae bloom, has not sufficiently abated to open the entire coast. Opening price levels will likely be set the next day or two. The December Alaska King Crab season produced adequate volume, quotas similar to last season. Prices for red king are firm with some value in golden or brown king crab. Our retail and restaurants took advantage of the excellent value of king crab during the holiday season, and we maintain excellent inventory for your winter menus and retail ad specials.

Mexican bay scallop season is again on hold until later in the month. We will see some supply of yellowtail, grouper and snapper from Southern California and Baja waters, but the full fleet is not yet fishing. The Mexican boats that are fishing target shrimp. The season has been adequate, and prices are similar to last season, but inventory is limited and each round has produced less volume, especially in the bigger sizes. Seattle Fish Co. has an excellent supply of all sizes of wild Mexican shrimp, arguably the finest available. Globally, shrimp prices are up for mid to larger sizes, expected to continue through Lent.


Two months away from the new scallop season, prices will remain high; availability of jumbo sizes is limited. Look for U-12 scallops and smaller to provide some relief. The New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manage the Atlantic scallop fishery. These governing bodies determine allowable days at sea and maximum quota. Regarding quota, some good early news is that maturing juvenile scallop population will allow quota increase for 2016. The effect on pricing for the new season remains to be seen. Seattle Fish Co. will have a new, all-natural private label coming soon. No change on the East Coast ground fishery. Cod is very limited with adequate supply of flats, haddock, pollock and monkfish. Larger striped bass are a premium with limited availability of Black Sea bass. With the decreased striper quotas this year, outlook for this popular East Coast fish is not bright.

New England lobster prices are steady, likely to dip a bit after the holiday crush. Don’t get used to short-lived price relief with Valentine’s Day and the usual March price bumps around the corner. We don’t see major hikes this year as we have seen in the past. For best value, order your larger quantities in pre-packed cloud pack lobster boxes. Ask your Seattle Fish lobster expert for details.


How many oysters did Seattle Fish Co. customers slurp this holiday season? Over 160,000 by latest count. Why not? Oysters are fun, taste great and variety gives everyone something they like. We provide the largest selection of both East and West Coast selection. Oyster production is at the peak season of quality, and 2016 is shaping up to be a banner year. Quantity and quality is as good as many oystermen can remember. Significant variety is mature and well developed. If oysters are not part of your menu, get with your Seattle Fish Co. oyster expert and join the celebration. Manila clams from the West Coast have rebounded from low periods of the past two years and supply appears solid going forward. West Coast mussels are starting their spawning cycle through April. Most of our mussels come from Prince Edward Island, Canada, and are very hardy with good meat fill. Even though this is the prime mussel season it is always a good idea to keep your mussels well iced and properly drained. Also, at the height of goodness are Bangs Island mussels, sweet and plump. The nutrient-rich region in Casco Bay, Maine, is the perfect storm of mussel-growing regions. The Gulf Stream flows meeting the cold waters of the bay creates tidal flows up to 12 feet, supplying ample food for the voracious rope-cultured Bangs. Try some today.

We put our hardshell clam partners to the test this Christmas season. Littlenecks, top necks, cherry stones and pasta clams are always consistent. We supply retail and restaurant bulk pack for convenience. Razor clams have been very scarce, typical during the winter months.


Gulf tuna boats were out in force the last two weeks fishing for the holiday crush. We will see a little lull in Gulf tuna fishing the next two weeks. Swordfish, a bargain most of December, has firmed as supply has tightened. Mahi volume is good, prices nearing winter lows; good time for menu setting and retail ads. American Red Snapper from our Gulf Wild fishermen was a holiday favorite with many of our chefs. Our Gulf Wild partners provide not only a superior product, but do it the right way. They are part of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, a nonprofit organization that “represents the interest of commercial fishermen and other stakeholders that want to bring sustainability and accountability to fisheries management.”

The Florida stone crab season has been the best in recent memory, and many of our customers took advantage of lower prices. Production is good, but it took a while for buyers to get rolling. Prices had been so high in recent years many restaurants took stone crabs off the market. Stone crabs live roughly for eight years and if declawed properly can live and regenerate marketable claws for many years.


Not much fish news from the Great Lakes region except snow, ice pack and minimal quota. We received some catch early December, but the iceboats have been dry lately. The new season opens in earnest May 1.


Action at the Honolulu auction has been very brisk the past two weeks. All crews were on deck fishing round the clock to keep up with demand. Fishing will slow a bit the first 10 days of the New Year, keeping prices high. There is no Hawaiian Kampachi harvest until next week, but it will be back on track soon. Sales have been excellent with many new customers taking advantage of this sushi-quality, deep-ocean farmed fish off the Kona Coast, Big Island, Hawaii.

Our next report will feature the latest news, industry trends and latest market conditions coming out of the 2016 Global Seafood Market Conference. Industry leaders, movers and shakers gather once a year to report and discuss the state of seafood. Happy New Year to all. Thank you for your support. Seattle Fish Co. looks forward to continued service.


Harry Mahlers

Harry Mahleres
Director of Purchasing

303-329-9595 ext. 121