The recent customs workers strike in Chile settled last week after nine days of acrimonious diatribe, bringing relief to the worldwide farmed-salmon supply. The strike created a $30 million blow to the Chilean salmon industry in just the first few days; final numbers were well over that mark when an agreement was finally reached. Local markets faced some challenges, but our global salmon partners helped fill the gap. The salmon shortage caused some prices to ratchet up and profit-taking occurred in some markets, but has tempered with the wild season heating up, giving consumers additional choices. The Norwegian markets have tightened a tad, with lower production levels. Scottish production is steady, with direct shipments from our Scottish salmon farming partners streaming three containers weekly to Denver. In spite of the Chilean workers strike, fresh Atlantic salmon imports are trending up in 2015. Canadian whole fish production has returned to previous totals; historic levels of Chilean fish and the increase of Norwegian production also contributed. The second half of the year may show different results.
We mentioned the wild market. Ironically, recent headlines reported consumers will see more Alaskan salmon this summer, with harvest projected as the second largest ever. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game predicted 2015 would yield the largest sockeye salmon harvest since 1995. Someone forgot to tell the fish. So far, the heralded Copper River Fishery sockeye harvest has brought in approximately 70% of projection. Copper River opened May 14 with perfect weather and a busted catch. Prices opened extremely high after the dismal 24-hour fishing window. Subsequent openers produced similar results and only during round four was there any significant catch. However, the next three rounds produced little fish as retailers clamored for more volume and lower prices. Prices did fall somewhat, but you cannot sell what you don’t have, no matter the cost. Last week, an unusual 48-hour fishery opened Saturday at 7 pm. This was done because there was significant escapement upriver, but no catch. Numbers from this last opener have not been settled yet. We are looking forward to Bristol Bay, Johnstone Strait, Main Bay, southeast Alaska and other regions so we can have more wild options and, hopefully, stability.
Trout season is in full swing and an excellent summer menu choice. Seattle Fish Company carries the size and flavor for every palate and retail case. New to our stable of trout choices is Frontier Trout, grown in Southern Colorado. We carry a dressed and single lobe fillet. Clean, fresh and slightly more expensive than Idaho, Frontier Trout is the perfect restaurant special. Ask your rep for details. Don’t forget about the king of trout, Scottish Loch Etive Steelhead. Loch Etive is GMO-free and uses no hormones or growth promoters. Try Loch Etive; it’s easily one of my top five favorites.
The summer catfish season is in high gear; supply is good. Retail grocers are taking advantage with scheduled ads. U.S. farm-raised catfish is high in protein, 25.6 grams in a 6-ounce serving. Ninety-four percent of catfish raised in the United States comes from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Farm-raised catfish is raised in clay-lined ponds with clean well water, eliminating any brackish flavor prevalent in their wild brethren. The entire process to harvest is very short, ensuring very fresh product. Add the clean taste of farm-raised catfish from Seattle Fish Company to your menu today.
Halibut harvest is taking a back seat to wild salmon as we move to the summer season. It will be summer around here sometime, right? Catch is steady to good against moderate demand. Prices dipped last week, but only slightly. We will not see much cost change the remainder of the season. The good thing about halibut is consistent supply; the bad, prices stay firm. Ground fishing is good. Have you tried our round rockfish recently? We bring in several varieties, all recently endorsed by Monterey Bay Aquarium. Some of our selections include rougheye, yellowmouth and quillback, among others. Excellent whole presentation and ocean friendly. Additional ground fish include perch; limited shallow-water Dover sole; and arrowtooth flounder. The Alaska true cod season is over, but ample supply from pot fishermen is available, as is fresh sablefish.
California King fishery was in hiatus temporarily at Bodega Bay, a very good king port this season, but the season reopened this Sunday. The Fort Bragg Zone is closed until June 14. Prices to date have been firm, fishermen usually getting the brunt of blame from consumers. Before casting any stones, consider the fees from the California Department of Fish and Game, the dock costs for transporting from port to plant, processing and packaging costs and transportation costs to destination, and you have almost $3.00 before considering the raw cost of the king salmon. Volume will certainly reduce costs, and expectation of a strong season is still on the table. Southern California fishermen are harvesting yellowtail, grouper and halibut, the catch always good when the Alaska season is in full swing. Unfortunately, the California and Alaska halibut seasons seem to run concurrently instead of opposite. Mexican Bay scallops are seemingly on the extinct list; very unusual for this time of year. No one really has an answer why, but these small scallop morsels will start to appear soon. We know you want them; we’ll continue searching. Mexican shrimp vessels are mostly tied up, the new season starting late September. Seattle Fish Company has an excellent supply of Mexican shrimp and all sizes. We also offer some value-added shrimp. Talk to your Seattle Fish Company shrimp expert to find the size and flavor best complementing your menu or retail case.
King and snow crab seasons are underway with mixed results. After a nice period of lower king crab prices, it appears prices are increasing. The live king market in Asia and Korea is strong, fishermen opting to sell whole loads with 100% net return on catch, eschewing processors. That said, Seattle Fish Company has the largest supply and best prices of quality red and brown king crab, also found in your favorite retail grocery stores. Dungeness crab prices are still high, but we have seen more volume, and indications are cost has peaked. Let’s hope so. Snow crab season is open, and prices are creeping steadily. Newfoundland has seen over 50% harvest, with Nova Scotia lagging due to bad weather, but catching up. The Gulf fishery has been steady, but landings have not been heavy.
Scallop landings are up, most of the harvest currently coming from the Mid-Atlantic Access Area. Most of the scallops from this zone are 10-20’s and smaller, putting the pressure on the favored U10. Prices are falling for the smaller scallops, adding value to those choosing to go down a size or two. We believe costs will level soon for all sizes as summer demand increases. There is limited activity from the Georges Banks region, supplying most of the U8s and U10s. As summer temperatures climb, so does the incidence of scallop spawn, mostly affecting the Mid-Atlantic catch. Meats become softer and begin to purge. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) recently announced 10 research projects funded by the Sea Scallop Research Set-Aside program. Money is available yearly from the sale of a specific portion of the sea scallop quota. The selected projects are basically instrumental in determining stock assessments and a sustainable allocation of quota in the primary Atlantic scallop fishing zones. These sessions also include planning for scallop vessel bycatch reduction. Ground fishing is steady for flats, including haddock, redfish and pollock. Monkfish supply is still good, mostly gill caught on set lines. Black sea bass is starting to show in limited supply, but rockfish, more commonly known as wild strip bass, is very scarce. The catch available is very expensive; early July openings will offer some relief. The Maryland soft shell season is rolling, with adequate harvest of peelers. We offer both live/fresh and dressed soft shells. Please order in advance for best results.
Live Maine lobster catch is steady, and prices continue to fall. Prices, while more favorable than March highs, will not fall to the prior two year levels. The Canadian lobster season continues through June 30, with fishermen hoping for an 11-day extension due to the slow start of the season resulting from earlier ice conditions. The fly in that ointment is fishing has been good, but processors are limiting amount of catch they allow fishermen to bring in daily. Live lobster holding facilities are full, so the dilemma may cause prices to fall temporarily to accommodate the glut. One benefit from the cold season is lobsters will likely molt much later in the season.
Oyster season is in full swing, but on the flip side, oyster spawn is right around the corner. During heavy periods of spawn, we will provide triploid oysters, which lack a set of chromosomes needed for reproduction, making the oyster sterile. Seattle Fish Company welcomes back Hama Hama oysters and the other varieties produced by this family-run shellfish farm. Home is on the eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains, where the icy waters of the Hamma Hamma River meet the saltwater of Hood Canal. First-generation Hama oyster growers dropped an M from the river name to save ink. Hama oysters are on the higher levels of price point, but well worth the cost. One variety soon to become available is the Hama Hama Blue Pools, a tumbled oyster highlighting the clean, crisp flavors indigenous to the farm. Constant tumbling of the oyster created a deep cup and smooth edges, underscoring a vegetable flavor, not cucumber, as in other West Coast selections. East Coast choices ramp up with the addition of Canadian oysters, such as Malpeque and Shemogue oysters. As reported on numerous occasions, oyster growth and popularity in the Rocky Mountain region seems boundless. On occasion, we get the farmed vs. wild question with oysters. If only wild is preferred, consider this: Over 90% of all oysters available today are farmed. There seems to be a perception that farmed is inferior to wild caught seafood, or there are environmental risks. Oyster aquaculture, however is very sustainable and equally as excellent as its wild counterpart. Farmed oysters are raised in the same waters as wild and are not fed — they consume the same natural ocean nutrients as their wild counterparts. While some farmed oysters are racked and bagged, others are bottom-planted, allowing them to grow just like a wild oyster. Farmed oysters are good for the ecosystem, each one filtering more than a gallon of water per hour, controlling phytoplankton growth. Consistency, flavor, variety, sustainability and shuckability: a few of the many reasons to support and eat farm-raised oysters.
Another fun summer shellfish are clams. Great variety and consistency make our Dennis, Massachusetts, hard-shell clams a favorite. We sell both wild and aquaculture hard shells, all consistently sized and packed in exact count bags for accurate food costing. Manila clams on the West Coast see some summer deterioration, but is avoidable. Ask about our other specialty clam choices. Special care and attention to mussels can also help avoid problems. Store your mussels in the cooler heavily iced and drained. Our mussel farmers also avoid regions of heavy spawn. One of our favorite mussel choices, Bangs Island, will be unavailable for a couple of weeks due to a red tide, algae bloom. We will have them back as soon as they are cleared to go.
Gulf tuna fishing has been hot lately; excellent catch and favorable pricing. Good-quality U.S fish available all week. Smaller, even better value, tunas are perfect for your retail store specials. Imports and tuna selection from Hawaii round out a good tuna week. Add a nice seared tuna special to your menu this week. The domestic sword markets are gaining steam with better harvest, especially in the Northeast, as waters warm. Warmer weather through our gulf ports brings greater challenges for our producers. To eliminate any temperature compromise, packers are adding extra gel packs to tilapia fillets and pre-chilling product. Maintenance of the cold chain throughout the shipping process is integral to our shipping processes at Seattle Fish Company. Steady as she goes is American red snapper from our Galveston boats. Shipments arrive three to four times weekly depending on need. Our Gulf Wild partners certainly keep us in the red, the good kind. The Ponchartrain region is producing fresh gulf crabmeat again after a short production last season. Crawfish are in season coming in 30-lb bags. Let’s grab a roll of paper, spread it on tables, add your favorite beverage and have a crawfish boil.
Walleye, pike, whitefish and limited Lake perch are coming out of the Great Lakes. These freshwater selections are summer menu and retail favorites. The season is in full swing and should provide good selection until November. Demand for fresh has stifled frozen processing, but we are expecting replenishment of our frozen supplies very soon.
Summer is here, and so are the wide-body aircraft direct from Honolulu to Denver. Better freight rates and quicker turnaround mean faster boat-to-table seafood. Here is how it works. Our seafood buyers at the Hawaiian auction send us daily average prices. Most species are sold whole or head on, so we estimate finished cost. Before the early morning bidding begins, we give our buyers a wish list with price ranges. That is when the fun begins. If you have never been at the Honolulu fish auction, each fish is bid on individually, so seasoned, experienced buyers are a must. Fish bought for Seattle Fish Company are marked, chilled, headed, packed in thermal-lined boxes and delivered to Honolulu airport, arriving in Denver within 24 hours of the daily auction buys. Yesterday, we received Kajiki (blue marlin) from FV Mariah, captained by Bob Bryn; Opah (moonfish) off FV Princess Jasmine, with Captain Son Vo Ahi (very apt name for a Hawaiian fisherman); and ahi from FV Sea Hunt, with Captain Leland at the helm.
Always choose Seattle Fish Company for transparency, sustainability and quality. Check out our new improved website and our summer wild salmon fishery guide.