Crab fleet brings in catch
First crabs of the season
The Daily Astorian by Katie Frankowicz - January 7, 2019
Though rough seas kept some boats at the dock, many commercial Dungeness crab fishermen began pulling gear and delivering crab to processors over the weekend.
ADF&G Closes Upper Cook Inlet and Susitna River to Sport and Commercial King Salmon in 2019
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - January 8, 2019
Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game announced a full closure on Northern Cook Inlet (NCI) and Susitna River for king, or Chinook salmon this year due to “a recent pattern of extremely poor returns for king salmon stocks in the NCI area," said ADF&G Acting Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang.
The Susitna River flows between Fairbanks south to Anchorage, draining into upper Cook Inlet, the most populated area of the state. For much of its 300 miles, the Susitna and its tributaries are accessible by highway to sports and personal use fishermen. Commercial fishermen use set and drift nets in a carefully managed fishery in upper Cook Inlet, at the river’s mouth.
Chinook runs to the Susitna, Deshka, Yentna, and Little Susitna Rivers have dropped significantly. Multiple king salmon stocks in NCI, including seven stocks of concern, have failed to meet escapement goals in recent years.
"The department must make these closures and restrictions because of a recent pattern of extremely poor returns for king salmon stocks in the NCI area," said Vincent-Lang. "The outlook for this season is particularly worrisome with the Deshka River king salmon forecast well below the escapement goal."
The Deshka Chinook salmon run went from a high of 67,044 Chinook salmon in 2004 to 13,571 chinook salmon in 2017.
"This system is the primary indicator stock used for management of the Susitna drainage. While the department realizes these closures and restrictions cause hardship, we want the public to know now what is happening well in advance of the 2019 season," said Vincent-Lang.
"The department is mandated to manage Alaska's fisheries for sustained yield. We must make conservation actions to ensure the long-term sustainability of these important king salmon stocks. We will also be actively monitoring runs so that we can make opportunity available if runs come in stronger than expected."
Weirs on the Deshka and Little Susitna rivers, fishwheels, and aerial surveys will be used to gauge inseason run strength. Fishing opportunity may be restored where and when possible while ensuring escapement goals are achieved.
King salmon sport fisheries will be closed in 2019 throughout the Susitna River, Yentna River and Little Susitna River drainages. Commercial fishing will be closed in the Northern District of Upper Cook Inlet through June 24 to allow passage of king salmon through the district.
Subsistence king salmon fisheries in the Tyonek Subdistrict and Upper Yentna, which are each open three days a week by regulation, are being restricted to two days per week during the respective subsistence fishery seasons. This shares the burden of conservation across all user groups while recognizing a subsistence priority.
28,000-Strong Survey Reveals Europeans' Fish and Seafood Preferences
Seafood News by Niamh Michail - January 7, 2019
Most Europeans prefer buying fish and seafood frozen but consumers in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Spain prefer fresh, according to a 28,000-strong European Commission survey.
The EU is one of the world’s largest markets for fish and seafood.
While per capita spending on fishery and aquaculture products is one-third of that of Japan, the world leader, it is more than three times as much as in the United States.
A recently published study commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, therefore aimed to shed light on what Europeans look for in fish and seafood, where they buy it and which information they would like to see on-pack.
The survey questioned almost 28,000 individuals from each member state in face-to-face interviews that were conducted at home in their native language.
“It aims at improving understanding of the EU internal market for fishery and aquaculture products to allow operators to be more competitive and to support new strategies that can stimulate growth, strengthen economic activities in the internal market and lead to job creation,” the report said.
Overall, seven in ten respondents (70%) eat fishery or aquaculture products at home 'at least once a month'.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest consumers of fish and seafood products are from countries with a tradition of fishing and eating fish. Spain led the way, with 92% of respondents saying they eat fish at least once a month, followed by Portugal and Sweden (both 87%), Estonia (85%), Finland (84%) and Denmark and Greece with 83%.
As with the previous 2016 survey , Hungary stood out for having the lowest proportion, with just over one quarter (28%) of individuals eating fish at home at least once a month. However, price may be a deterring factor for consumers in the land-locked country: 90% of Hungarians said they would buy or eat more fishery and aquaculture products if the prices were not so high.
Supermarkets are the preferred purchase point
Over three-quarters of these respondents (77%) buy fishery or aquaculture products at the grocery store, supermarket or hypermarket. However, a majority of Italians (64%), Greeks (65%) and Maltese respondents (74%) were more likely to buy fish or seafood directly from a fishmonger, a fishmonger’s stall in a market hall, or at a specialist store.
Almost no country seemed to favour online shopping for fish products with one exception: Denmark, with 6%.
The most popular format was frozen. A total of 68% of all respondents who buy fish and seafood purchase frozen products either from time to time or often, with Portugal, Austria and Sweden the top countries for frozen fish purchases. Greece, Spain and Portugal, on the other hand, came out top for fresh fish and seafood products.
Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Croatia preferred to buy whole products.
Respondents were more likely to express a preference for wild products (35%) over farmed products (9%), but nearly as many said that they did not have a preference (32%).
“The most commonly mentioned reasons to buy or eat fishery and aquaculture products are because they are healthy (74%) and because they taste good (59%),” the report said.
“More than half mention the product’s appearance (59%) and the cost of the product (52%) as important aspects when buying fishery and aquaculture products. The third most frequently mentioned aspect is the origin of the product, with more than four in ten respondents (41%) considering this important. More than a fifth (23%) of respondents consider the brand or quality labels (e.g. PGI, PDO) and how easy and quick it is to prepare as important. Finally, the environmental, social or ethical impact is least mentioned as important (17%).
After date of catch and production, the second piece of information consumers would most like to see on-pack was environmental information, which nearly four in ten (39%) thought should be on labels.
B.C. scientist heads survey into secret lives of Pacific salmon
Researchers aim to find where Pacific salmon spend their winters
Vancouver Sun by Carla Wilson - January 7, 2019
VICTORIA — An international team of scientists is heading to the Gulf of Alaska for a groundbreaking research survey to uncover the secret lives of Pacific salmon in the winter.
Opinion: The Big Seafood Risk with China is not Trade, but a Drop in Consumer Spending
SeafoodNews by John Sackton- January 4, 2019
The global seafood industry is facing a bigger risk than tariffs on American seafood exports to China. Data from the past two months point to a sharp drop in consumer spending, especially on higher end luxury items.
This category includes expensive imported seafood.
If you could point to one dynamic adding value to the global seafood industry for the past several years, it would be the extraordinary growth of the Chinese consumer market demand for imported seafood.
This has transfixed industries from Canadian lobster producers to Norwegian and Scottish salmon suppliers, and it has mesmerized the Ecuador shrimp industry.
All producers like a market that will take almost everything you can supply and pay a good price.
In the case of Canadian lobsters, the initial read was that the 25% tariff on US lobster exports was a gift that would pay huge dividends to Canadian lobster exporters. And indeed, during the first months of the tariff, there seemed to be a palpable shift of live lobster product from Maine to Canada beyond the normal seasonal demands.
As we discussed yesterday (SW Nova Lobster Season May Bite Dealers with $CA 9.00 Lobster in December), this expectation of a bottomless Chinese market pushed up prices to harvesters in Nova Scotia to record levels, with wharf prices of $9 to even $10 for lobster.
All of this was based on the idea that these lobsters would be sold to China. What if that is not correct?
The issue with the trade war between the US and China has never been just the damage to individual export products or industries, whether it be lobster, dungeness, tilapia or salmon. The larger risk has always been that the trade disruption would trigger, or magnify, existing economic weaknesses and trends.
To use an extreme metaphor, It is kind of like firing guns in an avalanche zone. Now the avalanche may be upon us.
What is the evidence that Chinese consumption is falling?
The chart below, from the China Bureau of Statistics via Bloomberg, shows a sharp fall off in the consumption tax collections.
The Chinese consumption tax does not apply to ordinary household spending. Instead it applies to luxury goods, jewelry, foreign automobiles, and designer clothes and similar items that the Chinese government decries to be unnecessary spending.
Seafood is not part of the luxury tax, but the consumer base that is driving the purchases of seafood is led by those consumers who pay the luxury tax on other items. The chart shows these consumers pulling back sharply.
Another worrisome sign for seafood exporters is the slowing of both Alibaba and JD. com. These companies operate the online malls that have led to the spread of imported seafood and the explosion of store to door delivery options.
JD.com reported its first ever drop in the number of customer accounts in the 3rd quarter. The number of accounts fell by 2.7%.
Alibaba has revised its income forecasts downward, and has seen slower growth in areas such as consumer electronics, and big ticket items like appliances.
“In China, so much growth has been hyper-driven by the idea that there will always be new customers and those customers will always spend more,” said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research Group to the Wall St. Journal. “Investors are starting to say ‘The signs are not good, and when are these investments going to materialize in the form of better profits?’”
Alibaba’s spokesperson Mr. Tsai said that the slowdowns were less likely to hit areas such as meal delivery.
But within the meal delivery category, consumer caution leads to switches in products, often to the detriment of high end imported seafood.
Other factors supporting the decline in Chinese consumer spending include retail sales growth dropping to its lowest year over year growth in 15 years. Property sales are stagnant. Auto sales are down over 13% in November. Industrial profits are down 1.8%, the first decline in 3 years. Finally the purchasing manager survey both for domestic business and export orders has turned negative. These are all classic signs of a developing recession.
China’s spending is not evaporating overnight. Sales of seafood for the upcoming Chinese New Year will almost certainly be higher than they were a year ago. But if you are holding inventory, or building a sales plan, what is happening on the margin is what dictates pricing power.
The weakening of consumer spending will push Chinese buyers to cut orders, demand discounts, and to change their behavior.
It is the change in behavior that is most worrisome to seafood sectors that have built up their business in China. That is a bigger threat to profits in 2019 than tariffs alone.
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