Movers and shakers in the fish industry recently gathered in Las Vegas for the annual Global Seafood Market Conference, which provided attendees with information on the economic, social and demographic trends and changes affecting global seafood markets. The first takeaway was that seafood consumption has shown a per capita increase for the first time since 2006. How much seafood do Americans actually eat? Recent data from the NOAA on protein consumption says 16 lbs. per person, compared to 83 lbs. for chicken, 60 lbs. for beef (mostly burgers) and 48 lbs. for pork. Without empirical data, but judging from ever-increasing demand from our customers, our contention is that the Rocky Mountain region Seattle Fish Co. serves would have higher seafood consumption numbers.
Salmon, now the number two overall fish choice, showed the greatest percentage increase of all seafood categories. Farmed salmon supply grew 9% in 2014, led by import numbers from Chile and Europe. Factors in play for this growth were the Russian embargo on Norwegian salmon, continued growth in new foodservice and retail markets, lower prices, and the strengthening dollar. The market in our region has been stable, but the expectation of much greater demand for Lent will firm prices for farmed Atlantic salmon. Our retail stores are planning feature ads with very favorable prices for the consumer. Premium Scottish salmon are flown directly from the farmlands at Denver International two to three times a week. Demand is strong and getting stronger, sizing is excellent and our expert production crew processes this cold-water fatty salmon to your exact specification. Prefer to cut it yourself? We deliver whole dressed fish to your door. The wild salmon season is still a few months away, but wild choices at Seattle Fish Co. abound. Sockeye salmon is the biggest driver with excellent frozen fillets, or try some of our refreshed sockeye fillets. Try to discern the difference from fresh. King salmon caught at the height of the Chinook runs is immediately processed and frozen into IVP fillets by Alaska fishermen cooperatives dedicated to quality. Prefer coho salmon? We buy directly from a couple that actually resides in Colorado during the winter season. During the summer months, they spend their days trolling for beautiful coho salmon along the western coast of Alaska’s Kruzof Island. These large beauties are line landed alive, immediately headed, gutted, pressure bled and blast frozen at 40 degrees below zero within two hours of catch, maintaining cell integrity. This is a truly better than fresh product. Get with your sales reps to reserve your needs for the upcoming coho season. Wild projections for the 2015 summer season bode well. Look for another big Bristol Bay harvest, and likewise for the Fraser River. Wild salmon sales in our region have grown significantly during the past several seasons, but most of U.S. wild salmon is exported to countries such as Japan. 2014 saw a big jump in Alaska and British Columbia harvest, and we expect more increases in 2015; forecasters are predicting the 28th consecutive year of harvest over 100 million salmon. Copper River opens mid-May, marking the unofficial kickoff of the wild season.
Trout numbers continue to grow, supply is good and prices remain reasonable. We carry all sizes and forms in both rainbow and red meat variety to fit your menu and retail needs. Steelhead is not new to our stable of great trout offerings but new in the sense that we now offer Scottish steelhead, coming from the same farms producing our famed Loch Etive steelhead. Finished fillet sizes are a bit smaller than the Loch Etive, but prices are more favorable with the same quality and equally superior flavor.
Our largest retail accounts will be offering a myriad of retail advertised specials for Lent, including U.S. farm raised catfish. All our catfish is craft raised in Itta Bena, Mississippi, coming from the largest catfish farming and processing company in the country. Best of all, it is the only catfish company to earn BAP (Best Aquaculture Practice) certification. Sustainability, quality and great prices are pretty good reasons to makeSeattle Fish Co. your farmed catfish supplier.
The IPHC (International Pacific Halibut Commission) concluded its winter meeting last Thursday in Vancouver, British Columbia, announcing opening day and catch limits and TAC (total allowable catch) for the 2015 season. Opening day is set for noon local time March 14, and closing will benoon local time November 7, 2015. The catch limit for 2015 is 29,223,000 lbs., up 13% from the catch of 2014; this is somewhat deceiving due to the fact the 2014 catch limit was just over 27 million pounds. Over the last five-year recorded period actual catch has never equaled TAC. The actual quota this year is up 5.9%. Of major concern is the overall decreasing size of the average harvestable weight of the biomass. Overall average size has been decreasing over the past several years, so the commission, being very cognizant, minimally increased catch numbers this year. As always, Seattle Fish Company will have the first fresh halibut in Denver. Ground fishing in the Pacific Northwest is good, though always at the mercy of winter weather. The true cod season, in full swing, opened January 1. A modest quota increase of 14% this year, combined with a sluggish frozen market, provides great cod opportunities the next two or three months. Rock cod, shallow water Dover sole, petrale, arrowtooth flounder and sable fish fill other ground fish needs. Looking for a great new addition to your winter menu? Try the best, cleanest-tasting sturgeon from the swift, narrow channels of the Columbia River near Celilo Falls. This Yakima tribal fishery is worth supporting. Ask for Columbia River sturgeon today. Your customers will thank you. The King Crab market, opened October 15, continues to rise from low numbers of 2011. Prices remain steady at the lowest price levels in four years. The U.S. King Crab supply has risen slightly the past two years, but the bus is being driven by Russian king crab, bringing over 50% of the catch to market.
Fishing efforts further down the Pacific coast are yielding Dover sole from San Francisco and limited Dungeness crab catch, further increasing the already high cost of Dungeness meat, whole cooks and sections. San Diego waters provide live urchin and uni produced daily when the surf is not too dangerous for divers. A limited amount of yellowtail and corvina is available, as is California white bass. We saw adequate volume of California halibut and grouper last week, along with Mexican bay scallops. Mexican shrimp is tapering, with a few more loads scheduled to come across the border. Worldwide, the 2014 season has been one of recovery, seeing global production increase by about 10%. Countries most affected by EMS (Early Mortality Syndrome) in 2014 saw recovery but not eradication. Scientists initially thought EMS was a stomach toxin in shrimp but now strongly support an environmental toxin. Shrimp farm managers are focusing on proper management of nutrient levels, including probiotics, and more importantly, cleanliness in every phase of production, along with lower pond density and slower growth. Producers are also pulling shrimp from the ponds earlier, hence the preponderance of smaller sizes at lower prices. Larger sizes are very limited with resulting higher prices. The Global conference panel sees a year with stabilized production and increased demand in 2015. U.S. imports have increased 12%, paralleling global production of 10%. Risks to the shrimp markets this year include new or resurgent disease and weather, low prices leading to instability of production, and weakness in international money value vs. a high dollar creating pressure on the U.S. market to get shrimp back on menus or into retail cases.
Scallop supply in the U.S. dropped in 2014 as a result of lower domestic landings, with prices staying in the stratosphere. U-10 hit record prices and will continue until the new season opens in March, hopefully bringing some relief. Scallopers are getting 31 days of open area harvest (same as last year). Additional allowance this season will provide an extra 27,000 lbs. per vessel in closed area allocation for the new fishing year, or 8.5 million lbs. for the entire fleet. This increase may be offset by the decreasing averages of meat harvested per day. Estimating a 660 lb. per day average decrease in harvest, that 8.5 million lbs. may just be a number, not reality, but the good news is increased quota. The scallop biomass is good, but smaller, so expect prices of 10/20s and 30-40s to be lower, remaining firm on the premium U-10 size. The large biomass of juvenile scallops in southern and northern fishing areas should start yielding a nice bounty of larger sizes in a couple of years. Ground fishing is adequate for limited demand, which will spike dramatically on Ash Wednesday and continue through Lent. Cod fishing is limited, but haddock, monk and flats are good. Weather is always a factor, and last Friday night a haddock trawler, the Poseidon Princess, sank off Georges Banks. All four crew members were rescued, but events like this provide a grim reminder of the dangers of fishing in the North Atlantic. Live American lobster, Homarus, supply has seen a steady incline since 2004 but has been almost level since 2012. The lobster season the previous two years began two to three weeks early, creating a glut, cheaper prices and new entrants into the live lobster market. This past season started late due to cold weather; no glut of lobsters occurred over the summer. China is the new dog in the lobster hunt, with the most rapidly expanding export market for Homarus lobsters. American lobsters will likely overtake Spiny lobster import into China. What does this all mean? Increased demand with more supply should keep prices somewhat steady, albeit higher than last year. If demand in China continues to increase, we may see firmer domestic pricing into the summer. Price levels through March will continue to increase, which is typical of historical levels.
Shell oysters make up over 80% of the oyster products, including meats, consumed in the U.S. That figure is likely higher in our region, judging by the popularity of shell oysters flying out the doors at Seattle Fish Co. West Coast oyster supply has dropped, and Gulf production is down slightly, with the slack being picked up by the East Coast Virginica species. West Coast oysters have seen issues with ocean acidification — not harming mature oysters, but adversely affecting oysters in the larvae stage — and lack of seed the past two years. Oyster aquaculturalists — some prefer to be called mariculturalists — must lease grounds to raise oysters. They need good conditions, ideally 80 degrees and proper salinity, 16-18 parts per 1000. Too much rain will cause freshwater closures. Oyster popularity does not come cheap; prices for shell product are at record high prices, but like fine wine, our love affair with oysters continues. U.S. mussel focus is on fresh, but frozen mussel products worldwide are catching up. Canada exports over 120,000 metric tons of mussels yearly, primarily Prince Edward Island mussels imported to the U.S. Those numbers decreased in 2014 with the resurgence of domestic mussels on both coasts. Bangs Island mussels from Casco Bay, Maine, highlight our premium domestic mussel offering. Supply continues to be somewhat limited, but more production is expected this spring. Bangs Island mussels are grown on ropes suspended from rafts. Tidal exchange in this region can reach 12 feet, providing nutrient-rich feed. Try a bag of Bangs Island mussels today.
Hard-shell clams, properly known as Atlantic Ocean (quahog) clams, have a very rich, distinctive flavor and firm texture. This species, Arctica Islandica, matures in 40-100 years, and evidence has been found of 500-year-old quahog. That’s an amazing fact, but fear not about overfishing the oldest-known species in the ocean. For the past 10 years, allowable quota has far outstripped actual catch. Seattle Fish Co. has supplied the Rocky Mountain region with the finest, most consistent quahogs for the past 25 years. Our friends in Dennis, Massachusetts, pack littlenecks, top necks, cherrystones and pasta necks in exact count retail and foodservice bags. Our shellfish experts will pick the perfect size and count for your store. Other shellfish selections include razor clams when tides and weather allow, chocolate clams in season and manila clams, always on the menu. Manilas are perfect quick-popping clams for your pastas and other seafood dishes.
Heavy winds and weather have kept Gulf tuna boats at bay, but the Dulac, Louisiana, fleet is starting to return to port with fresh yellowfin tunas. Market price for fresh has remained stable, but the frozen tuna market is strengthening after soft prices in 2013 and 2014. The market started to tighten in the last quarter, leading to higher prices. Fresh domestic mahi production is steady, as are imports. Favorable mahi pricing should continue through March. Gulf Wild American red snapper and grouper, harvested by fishermen dedicated to sustainability and renewal of the Gulf reef fishery, is available weekly. All fish are individually tagged, providing area of catch, boat name and boat captain. Fishermen adhere to catch shares and proper fishing methods. Ask for the daily Gulf Wild catch. Swordfish has tightened this week, escalating prices. Normal Gulf sources, as well as other regions, have tightened. We are expecting better supply later this week. Look for the Gulf crawfish to be crawling out of the ponds in time for Mardi Gras, Tuesday, February 17.
We are not exactly in the prime season for lake fish. May 1 is the usual opening day scheduled for all Great Lakes species. We are seeing a few fishermen breaking through the ice, harvesting walleye for our fresh offering. As the season starts to wind up, we will see whitefish, northern pike, lake perch and other species of the region.
Fishing in the Hawaiian waters has been somewhat limited, with low numbers on the Honolulu auction, but is starting to perk up. Driven mostly by the tuna market, prices have been very firm as demand during the tourist season is at the height. By-catch of marlin, hebi, opah and monchong has been adequate. Hawaiian Kampachi continues to arrive weekly, with whole fish size in the 4 lb. range. As fish size and volume increase, we will look to ship twice weekly. Prices firmed during the holiday season and remain so, but freshness and superior quality have not changed. Sashimi style, crudo or seared, Hawaiian Kampachi is the perfect choice.
We trust your snowy Super Bowl weekend went as hoped. Please check out our website for current news and information. Check out our Seafood Seasonality Guide for your next menu idea.
Director of Purchasing