Atlantic | Fluke 

Quality remains a priority, as sushi market keeps prices on rise

By John Lee

Early summer fluke prices were unusually high with dockside prices often $1.50 to $2 above the average. Much of this had to do with a 30 percent drop in quota. Other flatfish were also unavailable to buyers, which helped drive up the price. 

Summer prices are usually higher than winter prices. From January through April the bulk of the landings are in Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the top two producers, Virginia and North Carolina. Even during the winter months, when a lot more product is available, there’s been an upward trend in price. 

“For the past five years the price has gone up by 20 or 30 cents per pound,” says Meade Amory vice president of L.D. Amory and Co., in Newport News, Va. “Some of this has to do with Virginia and North Carolina not landing their winter quotas at the same time.” 

Overall quality has also been on the rise, and much of this is because of the sushi market.

Tom Williams Jr., captain of the 60-foot trawler Heritage, says, “It’s all about the quality. We bleed all fluke over two pounds. We slush the sushi-grade fish down in seawater and ice. It’s all about trying to...

Read the full article in our August issue page 18.

Gulf/So. Atlantic | Spiny Lobster

Landings point to record-breaking season, continuing three-year streak

By John DeSantis

After a brief falloff in export sales the spiny lobster fishery is booming back, though it never lost much footing to begin with.

“The rundown is it was a very robust season,” says Bill Kelly, executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, of the 2015 season. The catch of lobsters, never considered endangered but still highly regulated, was so good that it exceeded the maximum amount that can be sustainably caught in a year under current rules.

The annual catch target was set at 6.59 million pounds and the combined recreational and commercial catches totaled 7.27 million. That came below the annual catch limit of 7.32 million pounds. But a review is now scheduled. Rules for species protection include a short recreational season and a ban on catching “berried” females, or egg bearing lobsters.

“We are looking at three banner years in a row,” Kelly says. “The amount of recruitment is the highest we’ve ever seen. If there had been significant mortality we wouldn’t have seen the...

Read the full article in our August issue page 18.

Pacific | Whiting

El Niño drives down landings; farmed competition kills the price

By Charlie Ess

American and Canadian West Coast whiting trawlers are fishing on a coastwise total allowable catch of 497,500 metric tons for 2016. That’s a 13 percent gain over last year’s TAC of 440,000 metric tons. In the allocation split of the TAC between the two countries, the U.S. fleet’s share comes to 367,553 metric tons with the remaining 129,947 metric tons going to Canada.

The increase rides on the most recent stock assessments that included additional information from age compositions in the fishery of 2015 and a re-evaluation of acoustic surveys from a period stretching from 1998 to 2013.

Suffice it to say that the stock is healthy. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s status report, which came out in March, biomass is the highest since 1990, and the driving force behind the positive numbers lie with huge age classes of fish born in 2010 and 2014.

That isn’t to say that all is hunky-dory with hake. Last year’s El Niño and a giant warm-water blob that surged its way close to shore made the fish extremely hard to find in what had previously been...

Read the full article in our August issue page 19.

Alaska | Pollock

Germany is a strong developing market; surimi sales are up in Japan

By Charlie Ess

In January, Alaska pollock trawlers started fishing on a Bering Sea total allowable catch of 1.34 million metric tons for 2016, up from 1.31 million metric tons in 2015. The uptick in the TAC is but half of the good news as markets for products derived from fillet blocks gained interest throughout Europe, particularly in Germany, one of the top U.S. export partners for whitefish products.

Domestic pollock sales also saw gains in purchases for school. “We’re 25 percent up on USDA purchases,” says Pat Shanahan, program director with Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers, in Seattle. Years ago, GAPP began promoting single frozen Alaska pollock products for their nutritional values in school lunch programs across the country. 

For the better part of a decade, Europe has been onboard with pollock, especially Germany. It’s “our largest market,” says Shanahan, of single-frozen pollock fillets. “Alaska pollock is the most popular product; this is their go-to fish.”...

Read the full article in our July issue page 19.

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