02 Mar 2015

Market Report – March 3, 2015

March 02, 2015


The farm-raised Atlantic salmon market continues its steady pace through Lent, except for the Norwegian segment. Supply is outweighing demand, causing a dip in pricing, further enhanced by a stronger dollar. Spot market Norwegian prices are very advantageous to buyers at this time. Chilean fish is still the primary import fish into the U.S., filling most Lenten ads. Prices in the area have shown some strength lately, but minimal considering the season. Scottish salmon, Seattle Fish Company’s premium salmon import, arrives weekly from our Scottish salmon partners through Heathrow in London direct to Denver. You may be surprised to know the largest export item from the UK’s busiest airport is prime Scottish salmon, a large chunk earmarked for Denver. More than 88,000 tons of salmon is exported yearly through this terminal, most earmarked for the U.S. We will send your restaurant dressed 6-8 kg fish, or our expert cutters will cut them to your specification.

Bristol Bay, the wild salmon barometer in Alaska, produced 28 million pounds in 2014. Prediction for 2015 harvest is more than 40 million pounds. Our retail partners are looking forward to a banner wild season, kicking off the Copper River harvest mid-May. Last year’s opening catch numbers were small, creating demand backlog for the favored sockeye run. Small planes will cruise the Copper River basin in early May, checking for breakup of ice. Sonar devices placed at strategic locations in the Copper River monitor salmon escapement, critical to decision of allowable fishing periods. Well managed, the Copper River fishery is a model for sustainability. Until the wild salmon season is in full gear take advantage of premium-frozen king fillets, sockeye, and our h/g coho, blast frozen at sea within an hour of live catch.

Winter trout supply is excellent for both red and rainbow varieties. Pricing is stable, making trout a great menu or retail counter choice. U.S. farm-raised trout operations are held to strict environmental standards. Rainbow trout are farmed in raceways and mimic free-flowing rivers using large amounts of fresh water. Idaho, with access to a massive freshwater aquifer, contributes more than 75 percent of the farm-raised trout produced in the U.S. Steelhead popularity is booming. Seattle Fish Company brings the world’s finest direct from Northern Argyll on the west coast of Scotland. Sustainably raised, following required protocols, our quality steelhead contains no GMO in the feed, is grown without hormones and uses no growth promoters. Check out your favorite retail store for premium Scottish steelhead or one of our many restaurants featuring Loch Etive steelhead.


Our clean, clay-lined catfish ponds in Itta Bena, Mississippi, are brimming with fat catfish. U.S.-farmed catfish is raised in contained environments constantly fed clean, pure water, highly sustainable food, with rare opportunity to spread any waste or disease. Catfish are fed a grain-based diet that includes soybean meal. We supply our retailers and restaurants with superior shank fillets, nuggets and h/g skinned head-off fish. Our processor is the only Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) certified live plant in the country. Buy your catfish from Seattle Fish Company.


The 2015 Pacific Halibut season opens in less than two weeks, March 14. Our fishermen are on alert to send first catch as soon as possible. The quota has increased this year, portending lower prices, but experts predict that will not be the case. Freezers are virtually empty, many large processors choosing to reduce their frozen numbers from years past. Coffers were bulging two years ago, and several producers took a bath on overpriced inventory. As a result, freezers need to fill, keeping fresh prices firm this season. Another issue this season, which evokes passion, is how Alaska’s Amendment 80 Fleet is managing halibut by catch. Broad based, Amendment 80 spells out plans for retention and preservation of halibut caught with targeted species such as rock, or Pacific cod. This fleet operates in the remote regions of Western Alaska, by the Aleutians. While our wish is to reduce or eliminate by-catch there are two sides to every story. Much of the fleet does manage to retain 90 percent of their halibut by-catch and are making strides to reduce halibut take. Seiners are required by law to put all fish caught in holding tanks and use a sorting program to remove as many halibut from the deck as possible and safely return them to the water. Design and refinement of excluders has been taking place for the past 20 years. Captains notify each other of high halibut concentrations and areas to avoid, and engage in improved fishing techniques, using efficient pelagic doors, which enable halibut to outswim fishing nets. Captains and fishermen are calling for conversation to be less adversarial, more productive; we agree.

Pacific cod fishing is staying hot, with good volume finding its way to our grocery stores. Rock from Canada and shallow water dover sole from San Francisco are also available. Please ask about our West Coast whole fish selection of dover sole, petrale and whole rock. Rock catch is primarily from Canada; U.S. boats are still targeting Pacific cod. Sable fishing, somewhat spotty, begins in earnest mid-March. Further down the coast, local corvina is starting in Southern California. Great fish, priced to sell; ask your sales rep for details on a retail ad or restaurant special. Quantity should continue through May. Rough waters in San Diego had stifled the urchin divers, keeping production of uni limited. Look for calmer seas this week. Mexican pongas are still harvesting shrimp, and we are expecting another shipment this week along with some value-added larger cooked and raw peeled and deveined sizes. If you thought it was safe to come in from the rain of shrimp disease, think again. India, the fastest-growing region post EMS disease reported a new vannamei shrimp disease called running mortality syndrome (RMS). Relatively little is known about the disease; opinions vary on its effect, or how and if the disease is spread. All agree that proper management and sanitation are the ultimate keys to shrimp disease eradication.


As our Kittery lobsterman so aptly described, “The Maine lobster situation is a mess.” Prices are escalating daily, already in the low teens, and no one wants to predict how high they will go. Ocean bays are literally frozen, a region known for large tidal exchange. Big tides, high ocean salinity and frozen waters are not usually spoken in the same sentence, but this is a very unusual season in the northeast. The tough lobster situation will persist until mid- to late April, at least. Other ground fishing in the region is not faring much better, but adequate supply of monk is available. Flatfish prices are very high, and local cod is virtually nonexistent, putting Lenten offerings in jeopardy. The new scallop season opened Sunday. Quotas and days at sea are up, but pressure on large scallops persists.


All of our oystermen on the Eastern seaboard from Canada to the southern Mid-Atlantic could have the same “mess” quote as our lobster guys. Harsh, cold, freezing weather has decimated selection of our East Coast virginica oysters. Freezing rain as far south as Atlanta has even hindered our truck freight lines to Denver. This weekend should bring a few more selections to the table, easing our oyster crunch. Harvest problems on the East Coast are putting severe pressure on our West Coast producers, with supply challenges keeping our shellfish buyers hopping. No better, or even worse, is the hard shell clam situation in Cape Cod, no indication of when availability may return. We carry southern hard shells as a substitute. Manila clams from our West Coast suppliers are available, helping fill the shortfall. At the risk of being redundant, PEI mussel harvest is in the same boat as oysters and clams. Ask about our West Coast Penn Cove black mussels, an excellent choice. Mussel harvesters on the East Coast look for better days ahead.


While not facing the bitter cold and ice of our Eastern friends, the gulf tuna fisherman have also experienced rough seas. Speaking of tuna, some of you may have recently tried our Mexican bluefin ranched tuna. Why bluefin? Recruitment population for Pacific bluefin has shown the overall biomass to be healthy. Fish are harvested twice weekly and shipped immediately, head on, gilled and gutted. These 50-pound average fish have great color and good fat. Swordfish harvest is adequate, with prices staying firm. Mahi looks to be on the wane, with little or no production from Panama or Costa Rica. Production from Ecuador is available, but prices are starting to move up, early for the season. We mentioned severe weather on the East Coast as far south as Atlanta, but that has now lapped around the Florida Panhandle causing problems for our Gulf Wild grouper fishermen. Good supply and preferred pricing for grouper off in Baja is filling the Gulf Wild shortfall. Farther west the snapper boys out of Galveston are bringing home Gulf Wild American Red Snapper regularly.


Is it winter everywhere? At least in the Great Lakes region, tough winters are expected. Some hardy fishermen are poking through the ice and catching marketable walleye. The Great Lakes season opens unofficially May 1. A full lineup of whitefish, pickerel, pike and some lake perch should be available.


Honolulu auction numbers are starting to climb, with weekend numbers hitting 69K. Boats are short and fish, especially tunas, are very fresh, keeping prices elevated. We have reserved a container this week, and our buyers on the auction are checking daily average prices. One of our major retailers is looking for whole American opah (moonfish). We will be adding tuna, monchong, marlin, hopefully sword. Hawaiian Kampachi size is still on the small side, but growing, and harvest continues once a week at this time.

If you haven’t navigated our new, improved website lately, check it out. Our seafood seasonality guide will help your menu or special preparation. Look for our wild salmon buyers guide, coming soon.


Harry Mahleres

Harry Mahleres
Director of Purchasing

303.329.9595 ext. 121