This Week in Seafood: December 2, 2019

This Week in Seafood: December 2, 2019

1. WHAT ARE YOUR FISH OPTIONS AS DECEMBER BUSINESS PICKS UP WITH HOLIDAY PARTIES? Here are a few items to look forward to: 

Farm raised:

– NORWEGIAN HALIBUT – farmed in Norway, harvested twice a week, and flown directly to Dulles airport in Virginia, you won’t believe how fresh these fish are. We HIGHLY RECOMMEND these fish for holiday party menus as they are consistently available and consistently priced below market.

– BUTTERFLY BRONZINO – again flown direct to Dulles twice a week, they are the perfect portion size, 7-9 oz. These popular fish have two fillets that are hinged at the tail. At less than $5 per fish they are an extreme value. Always available

– ORA KING SALMON – the “Wagu of fish”. These fatty King Salmon out of New Zealand are second to none! Each fish is tagged with harvest information. They eat great raw or cooked. Expensive but worth it! 

– ROYAL BASS – farmed in the Mediterranean alongside the bronzino and dorade, Royal bass grow much larger (3-5 lbs. each) and are very flavorful – great for crudo and other raw applications. The skin has great flavor too! 

Wild Options: 

– LOCAL HAND CUT FLOUNDER (fluke), packed in Chincoteague VA, would be our first recommendation based on price and availability

– LOCAL WILD ROCK -The drift gill net season in Maryland waters starts today Dec 2 and runs through December 31. The availability of rock and fluke in December is generally very good.

– SWORD / TUNA – sword and tuna this month are plentiful as our sources of supply are literally worldwide.

– RED SNAPPER & BLACK GROUPER are plentiful now but can get a little dicey between Xmas and New Year’s.

– MAHI -There will be plenty of wild mahi all month. Fish are all coming out of South American waters. 

– FRESH CRABMEAT – Domestic crabmeat supply will dwindle to dribs and drabs as it gets colder in the Gulf (Carolina & Maryland are done) this month HOWEVER, Venezuelan fresh crabmeat will be plentiful all month. Prices will rise towards Christmas but will remain well under the pasteurized Indonesian market. Have you tried our Venezuelan fresh SuperLump? It’s a great way to make crabcakes at a cheap price! 

2. ALASKAN HALIBUT OUTLOOK IS BLEAK – EAST COAST CANADIAN HALIBUT POPULATION IS GROWING – The Alaskan halibut population has been declining for over a decade. They have real problems with invasive species (primarily the rock sole) competing with juvenile halibut for food causing much slower growth rates compared to historical data. The Alaskan harvest quota in 2004 was 75 million pounds. Today it is less than 25 million pounds! That tells you all you need to know. Most Alaskan halibut are small (under 15 lbs.) We’re not sure how much longer Monterey Bay will certify them as “green” (sustainable). It is a much different story on the EAST COAST of Canada. That population is growing rapidly, and the biologists are increasing the quota almost yearly. The distribution of sizes throughout the population is healthy, with lots of big fish. Many of Canada’s east coast halibut fisheries are MSC certified (Marine Stewardship Certified)  

3. SHRIMP KILLING WILLAPA BAY OYSTER INDUSTRY – Collectively known as burrowing shrimp, the Willapa Bay harbors two native species — ghost shrimp and blue mud shrimp. Although they’ve been trying to expand their range for decades, they are especially prolific this year, thriving in unusually warm 70-degree bay water. The shrimp aren’t edible by humans. In contrast, oysters generate an annual total of about $35 million for the Pacific County economy. Willapa Bay is home to such famous oyster brands like “Goose Point”. Manilla clams are also grown in Willapa Bay. 

4. WINTER SWORD FISHERY IN GULF OF MEXICO – For the first time in years, fishermen will be targeting swordfish this winter in US waters in the Gulf of Mexico. This population has been steadily growing, and several boats working out of Venice Louisiana are geared up to go. The fish that we have seen so far have been “bullets” – rock hard with screaming red blood lines

5.  LAST TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, WAS “DUMPING DAY” – More than 1000 boats loaded with traps left many harbors in southwest Nova Scotia as part of the largest and most lucrative lobster fishery in Canada. In 2016, the “Southwest Novi” season accounted for $494 million out of the entire $1.3 billion generated by the entire Canadian lobster fishing industry. Let’s hope they catch a lot to break some of these absurd prices for meat and tails – but don’t count on it.

6. US GULF SHRIMP LANDINGS IMPROVE BUT STILL WAY BELOW AVERAGE – Through the first 10 months of this year, 69.2 million pounds of shrimp have been landed in the Gulf, the lowest amount reported since 2002. Look for rising shell-on prices through the first 6 months of 2020.

7. “NO MARKET” FOR CHESAPEAKE BAY WILD OYSTERS? Virtually all aspects of the seafood industry operate under the classic definition of the “law of supply and demand”. This scenario also operates like a chemical equation – “for every action there is a reaction”. So when most of the oysters in Louisiana (1/3 of total US supply comes from the Gulf)  are killed by floods from the Mississippi, and much of the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population has been either killed or stunted by freshwater, the dock price to the fishermen went way up. Consequently, gallons of shucked oysters went to record levels at over $110/gal. NOW COMES THE REACTION – because of the high price of gallons and pints, many retailers didn’t sell near as much as they usually do at Thanksgiving, and many restaurants never put them on the menu this fall. This is called DEMAND DESTRUCTION. Now in the heart of oyster season, several of the main buyers are telling their oystermen to not go oystering on certain days of the week. We could possibly see prices fall this month but definitely after the New Year.

8. SCALLOPS – Scallop prices are on the rise. Cold water temps and high winds have boats catching less than usual right now. We’re seeing increases on all sizes of wild scallops. Hokkaido 10/20’s are stable this week. 

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