Update 09/09/14 -
Recap : As we find ourselves transitioning to the fall and winter seasons and weather here in the USA, the New Zealand fisheries are transitioning to spring and summer. September is the transition month to the new quota season that begins October 1st in NZ, when most boats are geared for the NZ pink ling(Genypterus capensis) or kingklip as it is often referred to in the US. Most quota affected fish in NZ includes bass-like species such as bluenose and groper, most of which has been caught by now. So during the month of September we will be featuring replacements like moki, blue, white and silver warehou as well as trumpeter bass. These species are just as tasty yet tend to be quite a bit less expensive than their counterparts.
Expect there to be plenty of everyone’s favorite, hapuka or NZ groper by mid-October, but not a lot of bluenose as the quotas have been reduced yet again this year. Not to mention a strong Australian market that will take all the catch for at least for the first few weeks of the new quota season.
We should have plenty of john dory during the transitional period and even some factory cut fillets to go with it. Orange roughy fillet has been intermittently available, but the real reason for the lack of availability is the strength of the Chinese markets interest in the product. They have been taking the majority of the catch in whole round form and taking it frozen, eliminating the option of us gathering it in fillet form to store in house as a frozen staple. NZ tai snapper(pink sea bream) has been steady Eddie year round barring any weather issues and we continue to see an increase in interest for the deep red color of the skin and giant eye of the alphonsino, also more readily available will be the lovely ruby snappers and exotic golden snappers this time of year. During a recent trip down south to NZ while visiting suppliers and sourcing new species, we’ve been tasked with revisiting an NZ favorite called tarakihi(emerald snapper) that can be imported into this market in 8-12oz skin on fillets, look for these to fill the gap during the winter months at decent price levels when there is a lack of domestic red snapper fillet.
King Salmon : Due to a bumper season and increased availability of wild king salmon this summer from both troll caught and river caught kings from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, we have had a delay in our annual farmed king salmon profusion that usually would have taken off by now. By the end of September and beginning of October, expect New Zealand king salmon to be on all the menus. We are highly optimistic that supply and size will be strong through the holiday season. The three brands of NZ king Salmon we carry(Ora/Sanford/Saikou) assure that we will most likely meet the needs of our clients consistently and without interruption. We are still on allocation with Ora king salmon brand as we wait for their new farm sites to be operational pending some more approvals. Even still, we have received news that the amount of the allocation is increasing in the next few weeks and sizes remain an even mix of 4-5 and 5-6kg.
Sanford brand king salmon is coming on strong and will be the bulk of our volume for the next 2-3 months. They are surprisingly large fish(13-15lb) right now which most of our clients like and we expect it to remain that way during that same time period.
The Saikou brand king salmon we bring from the Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Company on the South Island of New Zealand is still the most unique operation of king salmon farming on the planet. King salmon grown in glacial fed fresh water ways of man made canals that drain into hydro-electric generators. The cleanliness and speed of the current allow the fish to build an incredible amount of very mild intramuscular fat while maintaining the distinctive buttery king salmon flavor the world has come to love. This fish has become a favorite in Japanese cuisine for its versatile raw applications. Even the saikou’s are experiencing good sizing at around the 7-10lb average range of gilled and gutted fish. We predict that this year will be the same as last year with the saikou’s coming through as the only NZ farm raised king salmon available during late December and most of January.
Sword : Our main suppliers in New Zealand have been off the boil recently as the Southern bluefin fishery has enjoyed a robust season, with sword being a by-catch while the tuna have been running. Look for that to flip-flop as the tuna migrate away from NZ waters and the fishers switch back over to sword. As we said, Oct 1 marks the beginning of the annual quotas down there, so there may be some short-term supply disruptions for the next month or so, but once we enter October, we look for more consistent supply of these high quality fish.
Tuna : Our Fijian partners have struggled for quite a while with very difficult tuna catching, vessels have had to contend with catches of just 2 or 3 fish on a thousand-hook set of the longline. Not much money to be made there, so several vessels have converted their fishing efforts to surface long lining for mahi mahi, and deepwater line fishing for exotic snappers like onaga, opakapaka, ehu and the like. Results for these two fisheries have been excellent through the summer months.
Albacore : This market has seen increased volatility this summer as catches which have been pretty consistent in the past have gotten more sporadic (see tuna comments above). Tahiti’s fishery has been pretty reliable overall, but periodic lack of fish has moved prices up and down more than anyone would like. Look for this trend to continue, especially as cannery prices in the Pacific remain strong with canned tuna demand worldwide on the upswing.
Mahi mahi : As noted above, a switch from tuna to mahi fishing has resulted in some outstanding fish landing here in Los Angeles this summer. The catch-rates are very good, which results in shorter trips and fresher fish! The market prices this summer have been very strong, with sales going off as high as $6.50 per pound here on the west coast and even higher back east as the Ecuador/Costa Rican players have been off season, look for prices to ease going forward as those fisheries resume production in the fall. In the meantime we continue to enjoy consistent availability of these beautiful Fijian mahi…TRY SOME!
Exotic Snappers : Not usually available to us on any kind of consistent basis until this year. Improved fish-finding technology after basically years of NOT fishing for these beauties has resulted in some nice volumes of the prized onagas along with ehu, lehi, and a new “player” in this niche, the Bedford Bream, a great fish in all regards EXCEPT it does not share the colorful skin of it’s more well-known neighbors. Thus it is less expensive and quite frankly, the best value of all these snappers by a mile.
To paraphrase the great Andrew Zimmern, “If it looks good, BUY IT”
European Sea Bass : Continue to be a strong item for us. Prices have taken a bit of an increase recently so we’ll keep on eye on that going into our final quarter.
Half Shell Mussels : Historic high prices with no price help anytime soon. In fact prices may increase going into November, now would be a good time to purchase.
Thanks for reading, tell a friend.