Updated Monday March 3rd, 2014
Pelagics have remained a challenge of late… Amid widespread reports of overfishing, millions of dollars lost, and bankruptcies, many vessels that were fishing into Suva for years are now either tied up idly or moving on to hopefully more fruitful areas such as the Solomon Islands. Fijian production remains just a shell of what we have experienced in past years with the fleet reductions mentioned above due to lack of success in pursuit of tuna. Some vessels are/have switched to targeting other species such as bottom snappers(onaga, ehu, etc.) and we have been having success “re-introducing” these beautiful deep-water fish into the market. Some other vessels are gearing up for surface longlining of mahimahi as that market slowly strengthens here in the states. Look for these exotic snapper to make a huge comeback in the coming weeks! Time to get it on your customers menu’s.
Tahiti which has been a pretty consistent supplier of pelagics, mainly albacore in the past, has also seen a major downturn in catch-rates which has resulted in domestic Tahitian demand keeping prices too high for our import(their export) market.
Sword : Imports have recently picked up, fueled by continuing weakness in the Australian dollar. This has enabled us to source premium New Zealand and Aussie fish into LAX recently while our own market was showing some price strength.
Bass : A bountiful supply of mostly bluenose bass but also groper was up over the previous month due to the redirection of fish that would have gone to Aussie. With a weakening Australian dollar we even had a surplus and discounted for bullet cut fish to the distributor for a period of time. This unexpected excess coincided with the largest boom of Mexican grouper/cabrilla/baquetta we have seen in a few years available for as low as $3/lb for head on gutted fish, still the NZ bass held it’s own. It is still too soon to assume that everyone will jump back on the bluenose bandwagon and forget that we haven’t had a consistent supply of NZ bass or that we have been promoting South American corvina/white sea bass for the last few years. However as we approach the Lenten season(beginning March 5th) our projections are for strong supplies of New Zealand groper, bluenose bass and the lesser know trumpeter bass while the Mexican and South American fish diminishes in availability. Additionally we have introduced to this market the White Warehou fillet, highly prized in Japan(Oki-medai) for its extremely rich, buttery flavor. This will be available bi-monthly.
John Dory : Last seasons amazing catch of dory has been surpassed this season as we have featured lower than normal pricing for whole and consistent offering of severely discounted fresh dory fillet for the last two months. This good fortune is expected to continue for the next month or possibly longer.
Wild Pink Sea Bream/Alphonsino/Ruby/Goldens : We have been fortunate enough to have had a very consistent supply of our highly prized sashimi grade(1-2, 2-3, 3-5 lb) Pink bream/tai snapper and the seine caught over the last several months and expect that to continue. Their close kissing cousin, the alphonsino with the larger eye and deeper red color has been less consistently available but has a strong following in our market still. The ruby snapper and golden snapper should become more available along with trevally(NZ pompano) and kingfish over the next couple weeks.
Orange Roughy : We are happy to see a consistent cycle of bi-monthly shipments of orange roughy fillet again. For the previous two months supply was sporadic but customer confidence has increased as well as orders with new reports of sustainability of the resource. The orange roughy comeback is in full effect.
King Salmon : This has been a feast or famine item for us as well as our customers. We feature three excellent suppliers of NZ king salmon and were experiencing some record sales for October, November and December and it all came to a grinding halt for different reasons at the beginning of the new year. New Zealand king Salmon Company and their ‘Ora’ brand has been on a strict allocation for all of their export markets and even local users in NZ for the last 8 months and ended up being a very small part of our king salmon sales during that time period. Their strong marketing and brand image has kept their fish in the minds of the chefs and in turn the buyers. However we have to turn away any and all new business daily on that fish. The outlook for increased production for that brand is bleak and long term but we’ve seen that change out of nowhere. The science and technology behind consistently harvesting this salmon seems to have its difficulties. The impending wild king salmon runs should take some of the pressure off.
Sanford brand king salmon picked up the slack for us during the holiday months as we pumped large amounts through the pipeline. We got to the end of the barrel so to speak right around Christmas time and the fish reduced in size to about 4-6lb range(2-3kg), which is doesn’t get much traction with our distributors. They expect to be back in action in a few months and hopefully sizing will have increased, until then we don’t expect any fish from them to avoid small sizes and the maturing cycle.
Our Saikou king salmon from Mt. Cook was one of the more pleasant surprises of last year. Normally the fish were a niche item sale for us along the lines of an arctic char at the 2-3kg whole fish size but increased to nearly 4-5kg range(8-11 lb) in December through the end of January and filled the gap and increased frenzy that the lack of Sanford and Ora kings left. The Saikous are down while repairs are being made to the canal and they don’t expect to be up and running with them again until around June with decent sized fish.
Scottish Ocean Trout : In the meantime these have filled the gap for some of the niche farmed king salmon guys. Beautiful color, clean and crisp bite. We’re huge fans of this product.
Bronzini/Sea Bream : European imports have picked up due to high demand and lack of seasonal supply but with that has come the price. Expect prices to stay up for at least another few months.
Regal Springs Tilapia : Unrest in the southern most part of Mexico has halted production while prices stay steady around $4.30/lb
Littleneck Clams(FL) : Best deal in town at the moment. 14-16ct constant at $2.25/lb with consistency and high quality.
Green Shell Mussels(1/2 Shell) : Raw material prices continue to go higher with big demand and lack of consistent supply. The industry also experienced a large company going into bankruptcy. Volume prices are between $3.50-$3.60/lb. We expect prices will stay in this range for quite a bit.
Orange Roughy : It has been difficult to get any product as Europe has outbid the USA as it stands on frozen inventory.
Scampi : Prices still sky high with huge demand still coming from China and has us battling the price.