Fish prices in constant flux
May 20, 2011
Base prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen depend on a wide mix of variables by region, the type of fishing gear, fish returns and mostly – supply and demand and factors in global markets. Base prices also do not reflect bonuses for iced fish, dock deliveries and other agreements between a buyer and seller.
Fish prices are in constant flux, said Geron Bruce, assistant director of the state commercial fisheries division. “Until the fish are actually sold at the wholesale level, you really don’t know what the price is going to be. So there’s a lot of uncertainty, and just a lack of information.”
Local fish biologists/managers will often share prices on fish tickets, but Bruce said some “don’t like to deal with it.”
“They know in season information about prices is not really accurate, “he said, “So they don’t want to be putting out information that they feel uncertain about.”
Plus, Bruce added, tracking salmon prices is not a ADF&G priority.
“There are no critical decisions that are being made by the agency in which in season fish prices are an important piece of the information,” he said.
Still, he agreed that not being able to pencil in a bottom line makes it tough to run a fishing business.
Trident is tops
Taking the fuss out of preparing seafood is a major trend among North America’s largest seafood suppliers. The companies are making more varieties of simple, easy to prepare products for restaurants and retailers operating on slim margins, and customers on tight budgets.
That’s according to SeaFood Business’ annual Top 20 list of North America’s biggest seafood suppliers.
Priorities mentioned by the big 20 were sustainability, and guarantees of food safety through regular quality control checks. Price often drives buying decisions, and the biggest trend at retail was “value added offerings” and “perceived seafood bargains.”
Topping the list was Trident Seafoods, with Bumble Bee Foods, Tri-Marine International, Thai Union International and Nippon Suisan USA rounding out the top five. Icicle Seafoods ranked number 11 and Ocean Beauty at 13.
Combined, the top 20 N. American seafood suppliers accounted for $10.6 billion in sales last year. The list would look far different if three major firms had not declined to share annual sales information – California-based Red Chamber, Pacific Seafood Group of Oregon and Maruha Nichiro, parent company of Westward, Peter Pan and Orca Bay Seafoods. SeaFood Business said the companies have not provided sales figures for several years. See more on the top 20 list at www.seafoodbusiness.com
Safe fish tool
Some fishy math by activist groups – especially with hypothetical mercury levels - has scared people away from eating seafood. To bring some balance to the dispute, the Center for Consumer Freedom created HowMuchFish.com - an online calculator that computes risk levels for 25 of America’s favorite seafoods.
The calculator (now available as a free iPhone app) lets consumers register their weight, how much fish they eat in a single serving and the type of seafood. Select wild salmon, for example -- put in 140 pounds and an 8 oz. portion – the calculator posts the lineup of omega 3s, protein, iron, etc. - and shows you would need to eat seven pounds of salmon per week for your whole life in order to face risks from mercury.
Similarly, you’d have to eat 24 pounds of pollock each week, and 10.3 pounds of codfish. For canned albacore tuna, mercury risk begins at an intake of 2.7 pounds per week; 8.3 pounds for light tuna.
HowMuchFish received a 2011 Bulldog Award for excellence in media and public outreach campaigns. www.HowMuchFish.com
This year marks the 21st year for this weekly column that focuses on Alaska’s seafood industry. It began in 1991 in the Anchorage Daily News, and now appears in over 20 newspapers and web sites. A daily spin off – Fish Radio – airs weekdays on 30 radio stations in Alaska. My goal is to make all people aware of the economic, social and cultural importance of Alaska’s fishing industry to our state, the nation and the world.