16 Mar 2015

Market Report – March 17, 2015

March 16, 2015


Salmon growers from all regions of the globe gathered at the Seafood Expo North America in Boston hawking their brands, meeting old friends, making new deals, and most importantly, driving sustainability. I still prefer the old moniker, Boston Seafood Show, but the local exhibition has expanded worldwide. Norwegian salmon prices are pushing up with Easter demand and a stronger krone. Other markets are following a similar path. Chile, bolstered by the outlook of much stronger demand, hiked spot prices last week, only to be rebuffed by weaker-than-expected sales. Volatility in Chile could wane soon as inevitable consolidation looms. Some experts say the Chilean industry could be dominated by four companies by 2017. Higher production in Canada also aided market stability. Scottish salmon prices are steady to slightly lower, dominated by larger fish. As always, our production crew cuts your Scottish salmon to order. We always provide personal service to best fit your kitchen or retail counter needs. Skuna Bay craft raised Atlantic salmon is adding a new offering to its stable of premium farm-raised BC salmon. Gold River fillets are expertly selected and cut to the same exacting standards as Skuna Bay whole dressed fish. This truly premium fillet will be sleeved and packed in specially designed thermal boxes, maintaining cold chain integrity. Fillets are packed four per box, a perfect solution for the chef or retail store who prefers Skuna quality without further processing. Ask your Seattle Fish Co. rep for first fish.

Wild Alaska salmon season is showing signs of life, anticipating Copper River in mid-May. Prior to that opener, Columbia River gillnetters get underway in early April. Troll King salmon fishing on the California coast typically opens May 1. After Copper River opens, Cook Inlet to southeast Alaska and other regions drop lines in the water. The sockeyes, or reds, start with the Copper River opening. Highly anticipated, these bright, firm salmon are a retailer’s delight, with ads offered throughout the summer. Large sockeye runs typically go through July, but other, later openers can produce quantity through the first part of September. Cohos, or silvers, usually show volume mid-August through mid-October—, sometimes later, as was the case last year. Look for our complete wild salmon 2015 opener guide on our website for complete menu and retail planning.

Trout sales remain very strong, with good supply of all sizes of red and rainbow variety. The near horizon may cloud a bit with more limited offering of larger rainbow sizes. Our sales staff will update. The availability from Idaho and our Utah farm is excellent. Our featured trout is Loch Etive steelhead. These fat, marbled fish arrive weekly from pristine, icy waters off the west coast of Scotland. A relatively new offering from the same region is Scottish steelhead, cut from slightly smaller fish, exhibiting the same superior quality and flavor. Every menu needs a trout dish.


U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish headlines out retail ad offerings for Lent. Excellent quality, great taste, high protein, favorable pricing; all reasons to add catfish to enhance your sales. Our farm, the only BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice), in the country, is further validation: Seattle Fish Co. is the only place to buy your catfish. Our farmed catfish are raised in Mississippi in clean, closed containment system ponds.


The Alaska halibut season opened this past weekend, with many boats tied up due to ugly weather. The 2015 quota is set at 29.22 million pounds, compared to 27.5 million last year—a 6.3% increase. Opening prices, typically high, were forced up due to lower opening catch and the usual pent-up demand. Once the dust settles, prices should be similar to last year, and we are hoping for stability through the season. Arguably, Pacific Halibut is the best-managed fishery worldwide, falling under the expertise of the IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commission). Sound science, combined with reason, guides the Commission. Gear up. The opening of the sable season—though not as ballyhooed as halibut—is critical nonetheless. We will add fresh to our frozen at sea selection. Ground fishing from Alaska and Canada is good. Ask your rep about head-on dressed rockfish with full transparency of species, area of catch, name of boat and captain. Other whole ground fish for sale are lingcod, petrale sole, and shallow water dover, as available. Pacific cod season is in full swing, and prices are reasonable. Large king crab legs are arriving by the truckload. Best prices in town; order a case today.

Down the Pacific Coast, California is gearing up for the early-May Troll King opener. If boats bring any volume, we will offer. Shallow-water dover sole fillets are coming off trawlers in San Francisco. California is flush with corvina, a bit smaller version of imported golden corvina with better pricing. Yellowtail in the jack family has been available—a good substitute for firming mahi prices. Add in Mexican bay scallops, fresh uni when weather allows, live urchin, grouper and baquetta to fill your Southern California basket.

Mexican boats are bringing more fresh catch but still have three to four more trips for Mexican white and brown shrimp haul. We have all sizes available, from U-10 to 26-30 shell-on and some large, value-added sizes. Shrimp prices overall in the U.S could be flat to lower this year as expected global growth continues, combined with lackluster demand. Smaller sizes are more favorably priced, while the larger-size shrimp are steady. We just received large, raw, peeled and deveined Mexican shrimp. If you have taken shrimp off your menu or gone to smaller sizes, you might want to look at the shrimp lineup at Seattle Fish Co. Prices should continue to soften as imports are still arriving to the U.S., but large buyers are opting to buy hand-to-mouth because they are not completely sure where the market will land. This is good news for the consumer.


The law of supply and demand holds true. Skyrocketing live lobster prices have stifled demand, and lobster prices fell this week—not much, but lower. Bugs remain a premium and will stay strong through March. Live lobster landings have stayed high, equaling the previous two years, but prices are much stronger this year. Factors could include a switch to lobster when shrimp prices soared, and very strong demand from China. Looking forward to the inevitable whiplash effect, a switch back to shrimp my soften lobster prices this summer. Ground fishing on the East Coast is steady, with monk, flats, and haddock leading the way. Atlantic cod used to see huge catch and plentiful supply. However, the biomass is now severely reduced—some say nearing extinction. Measures are in place for restoration of the stock.

The Atlantic scallop season opened March 1, operating under interim management rules allowing scallop fishermen to harvest 17 of their 31 open areas days at sea. During this period they cannot fish in closed areas. The NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) will take final action in May/June, as quota is expected to increase by 10 million pounds to 47 million pounds. This is good news, but the downside is that harvest from open and closed areas is expected to be primarily 12-count and smaller sizes, with the favored U-10s lacking. There should be substantial reduction in the smaller sizes, and here is where the best value will lie. Fishery management of the Atlantic scallop is healthy and is vital for preservation of the species. Seattle Fish Co. supports these efforts.


Many of our customers are getting their mussel fix again, and full production is around the corner. This recent period of no mussels has been extremely difficult, but harvesters are navigating the mini icebergs and frigid temperatures to bring one of our favorite bivalve mollusks to market. The PEI growers were slowed by yet another snowstorm on Sunday and are working to get us product. Penn Cove mussels from the West Coast are spawning and are currently unavailable. Bangs Islands from Casco, Maine, are excellent, full meats, but are still somewhat limited. We expect twice-weekly deliveries as the weather cooperates.

Our East Coast oystermen are breaking through the ice and slowly getting back up to speed. One of our favorite partners, Island Creek from Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, raises one of the finest oysters you will ever taste. Every May, seed is shipped in from several New England hatcheries. 800,000 oysters weighing about 2 lbs. will grow into full-size oysters 18 months later, weighing about 250,000 lbs. Some of our contingent attending the Boston Seafood Show—sorry, the Seafood Expo—visited the farm yesterday and experienced the process firsthand, slurping oysters just raked from Duxbury Bay a few hours earlier. Island Creeks are nothing special, except for the perfect nutrient-rich, big tidal exchange waters of Duxbury Bay combined with the care the oystermen and women take in performing each of the 20-some steps from seed to finished product and, most important, the pure joy of doing what they do. Wish I was at the oyster sorting shack right now. These oysters are best described as butter and brine. Order a bag today! The boys from the West Coast, Puget Sound, BC and other areas have been floating our oyster boat, with the adverse weather on the East Coast limiting supply. Good choice and selection will continue for the time being.

East Coast mussels and oysters are seeing some resurgence, but hard-shell clams from our friends in Dennis, Massachusetts, are not having similar success. We are hoping to get supply later this week. Hard clam relief has come in the form of middlenecks from Florida. Manila clams from our West Coast suppliers are plentiful and excellent quality this time of year.


The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has voted to increase the American red snapper quota this year as well as for the following two years. Final numbers will be determined soon. Undoubtedly a primary driver in this decision is the Gulf Wild program, which Seattle Fish Co. wholeheartedly supports. Gulf Wild fishermen adhere to catch shares and catch gear specifically manufactured to catch targeted species. Each fish they land is tagged, pinpointing the harvest location within a 10-mile radius, the boat name and the captain. Use the number on the tag to source the information at mygulfwild.com.

The sword fishery is stable, with limited catch keeping prices firm. Gulf tuna supply is reasonable, but cold weather and rough seas have hindered some of the fleet. A gulf tuna boat landed yesterday, with fish landing in Denver today. Mahi season seems to have reached the summer slowdown mode early this year, as prices spiked last week. The surge simmered some, but costs look to stay up.


The Honolulu auction numbers are starting to show good numbers daily. If prices stay reasonable we plan another load this week. Last week’s specials included monchong, opah, tuna and swordfish. One of our retail accounts bought a 100-lb. display opah cut to order at the store. Opah is a great grill fish. Most people ask only for top loin, but do yourself a favor and request opah belly loin. Prices are reasonable, and excellent marbling produces a perfect opah steak. The Hawaiian sword season is starting to gear up. Look for Hawaiian marlin this week, the only FDA-approved marlin for U.S. consumption. We even received a special order of ogo, edible Hawaiian seaweed, last week. Hawaiian Kampachi continues to grow, with size approaching 4 lbs. We hope to have twice-a-week deliveries soon.

Check out our new website featuring all the latest Seattle Fish Co. news and seasonality guides.


Harry Mahlers

Harry Mahleres
Director of Purchasing

303-329-9595 ext. 121