THIS WEEK IN FISH FEBRUARY 3, 2020:
1. CORONAVIRUS AFFECTING PRICING ACROSS MANY SEAFOOD CATEGORIES — We are just beginning to see the real time effects of basically a “quarantine” of the country of China. China has 1.6 billion people and, next to the US, are the second largest consumers of seafood in the world. So, when major airlines are cancelling all flights to mainland China, the seafood meant to go to China on those planes, has to find other markets. And that is a whole lot of seafood. Live lobsters from Canada and large farmed Atlantic salmon (Scotland, Norway) are two major categories already affected. Live lobster prices dropped a little under 10% over the weekend. The longer this goes on the deeper the price dives will be. Speaking in purely economic terms, this event is called an “EXOGENOUS SHOCK” to the seafood industry. This is a “demand-side” shock, where a major economic downturn is very possible in China and that could “bleed” into China’s trading partners. No one could have seen this coming, and companies with lots of inventory meant for China (live lobster, salmon, shrimp etc.) are not sleeping much these days.
2. HEALTHY EAST COAST CANADIAN HALIBUT POPULATION MAKES FOR GREAT WINTER VALUE! Unlike their cousins on the west coast, the wild halibut population off Nova Scotia is growing and thriving. Quotas, in general are increasing and there are several MSC certified fisheries in eastern Canada. With that being said, the fishermen who target tuna and sword all summer, like to catch their halibut quota during the winter. One particular “crew”, composed of a captain and 5 deck hands, has made 4 trips since Christmas landing just shy of 200,000 lbs. of halibut worth $1.8 MILLION Canadian! Fillets this week will be around $15, an extreme value for this time of year. Take advantage while it lasts!
3. STILL CATCHING LOTS OF LOCAL CHESAPEAKE WILD ROCKFISH – Drift gill-netters are busy trying to catch their individual quotas of Maryland wild rockfish again this week. Most of the fish being landed are 5-8 lbs. each which translates to a 1 to 1.5 lb. fillet. Prices on fillets are depressed (about 75 cents an ounce) – the fishermen are not happy, but our customers are!
4. 2019 GULF OF MEXICO DOMESTIC SHRIMP LANDINGS LOWEST ON RECORD – According to preliminary records from NOAA fisheries, 2019 ranks as the lowest Gulf shrimp landings total on record at 80.8 million pounds. That is more than 35% lower than the region’s average annual production. Florida harvested 3.5 million lbs. (50% drop), Mississippi 4.3 million (35 % drop) and Texas landed only 30 million pounds, representing a 25% drop.
5. VENZ CRABMEAT PRICES DROPPING FINALLY — The Venezuelans are trying their best to keep this high-priced market up. Even without much rationed gas in their tanks, Venezuelan fishermen are catching enough crab to depress the market – prices on jumbo are down $1 per pound and could possibly go below $20 next week even with Valentine’s Day the following weekend.
6. A TIME FOR COD!! The FINEST COD IN THE WORLD has returned. Skrei are 5-year-old
codfish. They migrate from the Barents Sea to the Lofoten and
Vesteralen Islands off Norway’s Arctic coast to reach their spawning
grounds. Unlike non-migratory cod, the Skrei cod has a firmer texture. The
energy stored for the journey to spawn gives this cod a superior texture and flavor.
The Skrei migration is over 400 million fish. Less than 10% will meet the
stringent quality requirements. The fish are bled at sea, rinsed in
saltwater and graded. Only the most perfect looking fish can be called Skrei.
Everything else is just Cod. TRY SOME THIS WEEK !!!
7. SEA SCALLOP OUTLOOK – One of our vendor partners, Peter Handy of Bristol Seafood attended the annual NFI Conference last week and came back with some good info on the scallop outlook. According to Handy’s recap, The New England Fisheries Management Council expects a significant reduction in the harvest of US scallops, falling from 62.5M lbs. in 2019 to 52M in 2020. What does that mean? Simply put, we will see upward pricing pressure, mostly on large sizes (U/10 & 10/20). Smaller count scallops could present a buying opportunity – The hard part will be convincing the general public to start consuming small (50 ct and smaller) scallops. Countries other than the US seem to have more use for these smaller sized scallops so we’ll have to wait and see if exporting to other countries has an effect on pricing here in the US.