This week in Seafood: January 6, 2020

This week in Seafood: January 6, 2020

1. LOOK FORWARD-LOOK BACKWARDS – As we enter the next decade, it behooves us to take stock and look back to where we (collectively the seafood industry) were at the start of the last decade and compare to where we are now. In 2010, seafood certifications, like the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) and Monterrey Bay, were still controversial. Today, certifications are widely accepted and required as just part of doing business. CLIMATE CHANGE in 2010 was nowhere near as “front and center” an issue as it is today. The world’s oceans are heating up faster than even any scientists had predicted, and fish and shellfish populations are either adapting (that means moving somewhere else) or declining. 10 years ago, the Alaskan halibut (quota) TAC, also known as total allowable catch, was 41 million pounds – today it is ONLY 23 million pounds. In 2010, CK lobster meat was $15 per pound, today we are pushing the $30 mark. Where will the seafood industry be in 2030? We don’t know but our guess is it will look very different than it does today. Something tells me that the explosion in plant-based protein “meats” will somehow invade the seafood industry and inevitably be marketed as plant based “seafood products”.

2. STATE OF MAINE BENEFITING FROM 3 HUGE LAND BASED AQUACULTURE PROJECTS IN THE WORKS – Three companies announced intentions or advanced plans to operate land-based RAS fish farms in Maine in 2019. Nordic Aquafarms is planning to grow 33,000 METRIC TONS (72 million pounds) per year of Atlantic salmon on land around Belfast Maine. Around Bucksport Maine, Whole Oceans plans to grow another 44 MILLION POUNDS of Atlantic salmon annually. And finally, a Dutch company, Kingfish Zeeland plans to grow 1.1 million pounds of yellowtail kingfish in a closed recirculating aquaculture (RAS) farm near Jonesport Maine.  Not to worry, we have a long way to go before saturating the market with “home grown” fish here in the US – we still IMPORT 91% OF OUR SEAFOOD HERE IN THE US!

3. NEW YEAR – NEW QUOTA ON LOCAL WILD ROCKFISH – January 1 starts the 2020 quota for the drift gill netters in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Most of our local fish are 5-7 lbs. whole that generate a 1 lb. fillet. The bigger fish are few and far between. Drift net season closes in Maryland March 1 but by then Virginia will be tagging jumbo rock entering the Bay from the ocean at that time.

4. GROWING FISH ON LAND WILL BECOME THE NORM REPLACING GROWING FISH IN THE OCEAN – I predict (and hope) that by 2030, growing fish in land based systems (RAS) will become a widely accepted and sought after alternative to growing fish in the ocean. As a buyer of fish from around the world, I have seen the environmental DISASTERS associated with open cage ocean aquaculture become more frequent (several per year) and increase in magnitude. Last August, in Fortune Bay Newfoundland, 2.6 MILLION SALMON died and sank to the bottom. Can you imagine the stench that 15 million pounds of rotting salmon makes on the bottom of a bay? Mother Nature will “cure”, in her own way, any ecosystem imbalance in nature. If 2.6 million salmon were supposed to be in Fortune Bay, they would occur there naturally. But they are NOT supposed to be there so Mother Nature tries to get rid of them (kill them) every day. Environmental disasters such as these represent the essence of the argument AGAINST growing fish in the ocean and FOR growing fish on land. Growing fish on land does not pollute the environment because it is totally contained on land and the water is filtered and RECIRCULATED back into the fish that are being grown.  

5. VENEZUELAN FRESH MEAT COMING BACK ONLINE THIS WEEK – After a short Xmas break, the Venezuelans are back at it, producing fresh HPP Callinectus Sappidus crabmeat flown daily to Miami from Lake Maracaibo. If prices follow last year’s trends, the market will dip in mid to late January and trend up for Valentines. 

6. LOCAL SUMMER FLOUNDER AN EXTREME VALUE FOR JANUARY – Prices on local hand cut jumbo fluke fillets are approaching 55 cents per ounce. These “doormats” are packed out in Chincoteague, Virginia and average 4 to even 8 lbs. a piece! Skinless fillets are easy to portion so stuff them with crab imperial or serve them with lobster risotto.

7. WILD CHINOOK (KING) SALMON IS AN INVASIVE SPECIES? In a story eerily similar to the Chesapeake blue catfish saga, wild king salmon were intentionally introduced in the late 70’s to a series of small streams on Chiloé Island Chile. Over the next couple decades, they rapidly colonized rivers in the Magellan area and began competing with native species for food. Today southern Chile has become a destination for recreational anglers wanting to catch monster King salmon up to 50 POUNDS EACH! They have recently started a small commercial fishery. It is summer down there and the king salmon are making their spawning runs. These fish are extremely impressive looking and of stellar quality. Contact your sales rep if you are interested.

Leave a comment