14 Sep 2015

Market Report – Sept. 15, 2015

September 14, 2015



US.-farmed salmon imports are up 11% for the first two quarters of 2015, compared to the same period last year. That number was eclipsed in the Rocky Mountain region that Seattle Fish Co. serves. Diversity has been a key for significant growth. Seattle Fish Co. sources Atlantic-farmed salmon from all corners of the globe. Overall, Chilean imports are down, with the industry facing challenges, the least of which is consistent profitability. Consolidation has been touted for years as a necessity for this region, but has not to date materialized. Chilean salmon pricing has softened from a mid-August spike, exacerbating up and down financial issues plaguing the industry. Direct imports from Scotland and Norway are strong, and for the first time, one of our major retailers has offered Norwegian salmon ads. Not to be outdone, our foodservice friends are buying premium Norwegian and hand-cut Scottish salmon in record numbers. Seattle Fish Co. now offers a truly certified European Organic Norwegian salmon. Ask your sales rep for details and availability. Canadian salmon is also becoming a Seattle Fish Co. staple. Familiarity with our craft-raised Skuna Bay salmon is well-known, but conventional premium Canadian salmon is also available weekly. Look for increased impact from this region in the coming months. Speaking of Skuna, each fish is individually hand-selected for freshness and quality. Set up a weekly pre-order schedule with your sales associate to ensure delivery of quality Skuna Bay salmon. We also offer hand-cut Gold River fillets with the same exacting standards of our whole fish.

The wild season is on the stretch run, dominated by the Coho runs. Production is still available from the Yukon. Coho will run through October with the catch from the Columbia, Oregon and Washington fisheries. Overall, the wild season has been somewhat disappointing, with great projections not quite meeting reality. The sockeye season was up this year, thanks to a short, but booming, Bristol harvest, boding well for frozen sockeye availability. Coho harvest has been somewhat limited lately, and the main king run is coming from the Columbia River.


U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish numbers are flush, with retailers jumping on with monthly ads. Prices are stable and quality is excellent, with no supply interruption on the horizon. Seattle Fish Co.’s catfish partner is the only BAP-certified (Best Aquaculture Practice) plant in the country. Catfish is not only a retail fish, but also shows up on foodservice menus and specials. A clean, non-brackish flavor comes from the feed and the pristine, clean waters of the Delta aquifers. Try U.S. catfish today.


The Alaska halibut season is starting to wind down, with two months left in the season. Prices remain firm but steady. Chalky halibut is more prevalent, the case as the season wanes. Chalky halibut is an internal denaturation of protein, undetectable in the whole state, but manifested when the fish is cut into fillets or steaks. This phenomenon occurs when the water temperatures are at the upper thermal limit for species distribution during late summer early fall. The cause is not completely known, but is thought to be tied to a buildup of lactic acid. While flesh appearance looks solid white (chalky), food value is typically good, except in rare cases. Chalky halibut is not sent to customers, but instead of discarding, we freeze and offer our customers a value food product. If you are looking for a good halibut product at about half the cost of fresh, check with your sales representative for a great alternative for your fish taco special. Ground fishing in the Northwest U.S and Alaska has been spotty. Looking for a green-rated or best alternative whole fish? Check out our selection of whole rock cod. Did you know there are nearly 50 species of rockfish up and down the West Coast? Supporting sustainable fisheries is a priority at Seattle Fish Co. Shallow water Dover sole is starting to become more available after dry weeks, and petrale sole continues to be plentiful. Look for adequate supply of Alaska sablefish and perch and the reappearance of Pacific cod, targeted as the wild salmon season slows. King crab supply is tightening, prices are increasing, and the outlook for the holiday season looks bleak. Good news is Seattle Fish Co. has secured a good supply for the upcoming months to cover your needs. In other crab news, the blue crab market has finally shown stability. Price in the U.S. has leveled, in some cases lowered, and supply looks good. On the other hand, less expensive red crab from Chinese production has seen a dip in production and the first loads shipped from China do not have set prices; we’re waiting to see who blinks first.

Early season optimism for the California Chinook season did not materialize, somewhat mirroring the Alaska wild salmon season. We are looking for mid-Pacific waters to start producing shallow water Dover and rock cod. Fishermen will soon gear up for the Dungeness crab season starting early December. The last two seasons have been fraught with delays, posturing between fishermen and sellers, high prices and minimal production. We hope for a reversal of Dungeness fortunes this year. Southern California and Mexican production has been adequate with supply of yellowtail, White Sea bass, California fluke, grouper and, finally, Mexican bay scallops. The Mexican fleet is gearing for the open of the heralded Mexican shrimp season. Typically, bay shrimping commenced prior to the oceans, but both seasons will open at the same time this year. We anticipate new season Mexican Whites available by mid-October. We still have some supply of larger sizes. Check with your sales rep for availability.


Biggest news from the Eastern seaboard is the state of the U.S. lobster industry. As previously reported, the lobster season got off to a late start due to frigid winter temperatures. Boats were getting out late and the Canadian fishermen got a head start. Additionally, the foreign lobster market slowed due in large part to a stronger U.S. dollar, some countries favoring Canada with a more favorable exchange. Regardless, the U.S. lobster industry is strong; the supply should be good heading towards the holiday season and prices will likely remain steady but higher than last year. In scallop news, the outlook is not so favorable. A recent auction day at the New Bedford scallop auction showed less than 10% of the catch was U-12 size or larger, indicative of scallop supply in the upcoming months. U-10s will be a high-priced luxury this winter. Value will be in smaller sizes: U-15 count per pound and smaller range. Ground fish supply is adequate, with haddock leading the way, followed by flats and monkfish. Cod, overfished for much of the last century, is struggling to make a comeback even with conservation in place. Some educated reports indicate environmental issues are in play, with warmer waters off the Georges Banks fishing grounds instrumental in relocating the cod biomass. Cod coming from the colder waters of Iceland remain sustainable and available.


Do you think the West Coast oystermen are looking forward to the fall/winter season? Judging by the blazing summer temperatures, several closures due to vibrio and high water temperatures, I would say, yes, definitely. In British Columbia some production has been closed indefinitely. Supply has been curtailed, but expect a full West Coast menu for what promises to be another record-breaking oyster season. East Coast sliders are just starting to come into their own. Having spent most of the summer procreating, the end of the annual oyster spawn brings on tireless feeding and fattening. Filter feeding of one oyster cleanses over 20 gallons of seawater daily. The oysters stuff themselves, consuming all, to store as much glucose as possible to survive winter hibernation. We are getting to the best oyster eating time; choose your favorite from our longtime oyster partner/growers. As always, your Seattle Fish Co. shellfish expert is always available to assist.

Mussels, like oysters, are also getting happier with the cooler weather. Continue to keep mussels well-iced and rotated. Harvest from Prince Edward Island, Canada, should be excellent this winter. Domestic supply will be equally ample. Our Bangs Island connection is temporarily shut down, but should re-open soon. Hard-shell clam production from our Dennis, Massachusetts, connection has been somewhat limited this summer, but our longtime relationship has ensured supply. As with other shellfish, look for littlenecks, cherrystones, top necks and pasta necks to be hearty and delicious. Seattle Fish Co. continues to be your go-to for always-consistent hard shell bagged in exact quantities. Manila clams from the West Coast have been so weak lately we have supplanted with New Zealand cockles, an excellent substitute. Looking for a specialty clam? Try blood clams, chocolate clams or geoducks when available.


Tuna landings from our Louisiana docks slowed down the past few days, with little volume in sight. Improvement should occur by end of week. Imported tuna from fishermen involved in Fishery Improvement Projects has been excellent lately. None of our catch is involved in IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing, a global problem threatening ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. Our Gulf Wild fishermen continue to supply catch-documented American Red snapper. Gulf Wild grouper, on the other hand, has seen some supply gaps, but availability is improving. Swordfish harvest with the new moon is showing strength, with reasonable pricing. Tuna is the most favored pelagic, but it’s hard to beat a great grilled sword steak, especially at current pricing. Conversely, Wahoo, a frequent bycatch of the sword fishery, is in short supply. Mahi is showing some sign of resurgence, but pricing remains stiff. We should see cost fall and volume increase substantially in the next few weeks. The shortened spring Gulf fishing season caused shrimp landings to plummet, driving numbers significantly short of last season and under the five-year average.


Summer heat had an effect on the normally cool Great Lakes fishery. Walleye went deep, but that segment has since recovered, and we should see good fall numbers for this favorite Lake fish. Whiting, however, remains short, with sporadic landings.


The Hawaiian auction is getting back up to speed after the Labor Day holiday. Low volume has driven prices to the stratosphere, but some bargains, like opah, remain. Our buyers appraise us daily pricing, buy as directed, box and ship same day. Air freight charges from Hawaii are at times a hindrance, but can be offset by sufficient volume, when available. Keep our Hawaiian Kampachi connection in mind. Fish are now in the 4-5 lb range, and volume for winter looks good. Sushi, crudo or seared, Hawaiian Kampachi is incomparable; a great winter menu choice.

October is Seafood Month — just another excuse to buy more fish from your favorite seafood supplier, Seattle Fish Co. Seafood is easy. All you need to do is keep it cold, keep it moving, keep it clean and stay informed. That’s our job. Remember to check out our website for our Seasonality guide and other extremely valuable information.



Harry Mahlers

Harry Mahleres
Director of Purchasing

303-329-9595 ext. 121