East Coast Fishery
Electronic Monitoring Can Provide Better Data: A Fisherman’s Perspective
NOAA Fisheries - August 9, 2019
Massachusetts commercial groundfish fisherman Jim Ford believes electronic monitoring could provide better and more complete data to a fishery that needs it.
Frozen salmon, cod fillets escape latest Trump tariffs
Seafood Source by Cliff White - August 13, 2019
A move executed Tuesday, 13 August by the Trump administration will reverse previously-announced tariffs on some seafood processed in China.
Ocean-wide biomass declines projected due to climate change
Seafood Source by Aaron Orlowski - August 13, 2019
Climate change will cause fish biomass to decline 5 percent for every one degree Celsius of warming, according to the most comprehensive analysis of marine ecosystem models to date.
Running against time: Forecasting Chinook salmon runs on the Yukon River
National Snow & Ice Data Center by Agnieszka Gautier - August 12, 2019
In Tanana, Alaska, a small village on the Yukon River, a woman hangs Salmon backbones, bellies, and collars to ready for smoking. Credit: fairbanksmike/Flickr |High-resolution image
Pebble opponents vow to continue fighting
ADN by Alex DeMarban - August 13, 2019
Opponents of the Pebble copper and gold mine on Wednesday were planning next steps to stop the project, a day after the Environmental Protection Agency revoked its 2014 proposal that could have halted the mine.
Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 08/13/2019
The Pacific Fishery Management Council's (Pacific Council) Coastal Pelagic Species Management Team (CPSMT) and Coastal Pelagic Species Advisory Subpanel (CPSAS) will hold a webinar meeting to consider agenda items for the September Pacific Council meeting. This webinar is open to the public.
Opinion: The Winding Glass: What’s Going Right with Pollock
SeafoodNews.com by John Sackton - August 9, 2019
[The Winding Glass is a weekly analysis and opinion column from SeafoodNews Founder John Sackton]
The single largest American fishery by volume, Alaska pollock, is having a banner year. And it is no accident.
The pollock industry is one of the most efficient producers of protein on the planet, yet three years ago the industry was in crisis. Pollock prices were at their lowest level since 2005; there were huge inventories of product in Europe largely due to the discount wars on pollock initiated as Pacific Andes struggled, and Russian competitors were ramping up to produce single frozen fillets to compete with the US.
Today the US industry is seeing significantly higher prices, which are still rising. Production is stable, between 1.3 and 1.4 million tons, and despite the trade war, Chinese processed pollock has been exempted, so American consumers still have unfettered access to both single frozen and double frozen pollock.
This turn around did not happen by accident, as the international competitive situation remains unchanged.
Some of the main factors appear to me to be the following:
Focus on US market
In response to the weakness in Europe, the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) which is supported by the domestic industry, embarked on a major domestic marketing and partnership campaign. This has resulted in new pollock products, more product movement in the US, and a better positioning of pollock in the foodservice and institutional markets, along with new retail products.
The strength of the US demand for single frozen pollock has helped stabilize and increase prices. This demand has been supported by new products, such as Trident’s Protein Noodles, and by support from the USDA, which has made the largest purchases of pollock ever this year.
The industry was also helped by promotion of single frozen American produced Pollock in school lunch and nutrition programs.
GAPP really deserves credit for their all hands on deck approach to building pollock demand.
Turmoil in other species
While production of Alaska pollock has been steady and unrelenting, other whitefish species including cod, tilapia, and pangasius have all been going though periods of market turmoil.
Cod has been impacted by reduced catches of Pacific cod in Alaska, and by the lowering of overall catches in the Barents Sea. Combined, this has pushed up the price of cod up 20% or more, and although this is less than the percentage increase in pollock blocks, it is a notable increase in cost for large users.
At the same time, the threat that pangasius imports into the US would be disrupted due to USDA equivalency requirements prompted huge run-ups in importer demand for pangasius, and a run up in price. Now that Vietnam has equivalence, pangasius pricing is returning to its more normal range.
And finally, Chinese tilapia producers ran into an oversupply problem that has collapsed prices and impacted production. So all of these potential whitefish competitors had market volatility and supply issues.
European Price Increases
Europe is a major market for pollock products in terms of both breaded items and ready meals. They buy both single frozen products from the US, and single and double frozen products from Russia. Demand is strong in Europe as imports have increased, even as major processors such as Frosta have been forced to increase consumer prices as well.
Despite predictions of dire consequences on sales, overall pollock imports into Europe have continued to increase. This could change if Europe falls into recession, but for now this has been a positive market for pollock as well.
The increase in the value of pollock fillets and blocks has been matched by the increase in value of surimi. The primary driver here is the failure of warm water species that are also used in surimi like threadfin bream; this has pushed Japanese buyers back to being more dependent on Alaska pollock, and has pushed up the price.
China’s Pork Problem, and New Consumers
Pollock may also be benefiting from China’s swine fever problem which has decimated their pork industry and pushed up prices. We have seen a pattern where products that were once exclusively imported into China for reprocessing gradually gain a domestic market share when companies see it makes economic sense to do so. Prices for H&G pollock going to China are quite high as well, and all the usual factors are at work. They include Chinese factories efforts to keep their workforce and keep operating, continued increases in sales to Europe, and the continued preference of Russian pollock producers to sell to China rather than in their domestic market.
But a new factor may be that some of this product is staying to be consumed in China. At the price level of $1600 per ton, H&G pollock represents a very cheap protein in China, and there are some who feel there is more pollock going into domestic consumption than previously.
As with products from Salmon to Lobster, new Chinese consumers upend traditional pricing models by introducing a new demand factor. It is possible some of this may be happening with Russian pollock, but it is too soon to get a clear picture.
Combined, these factors are making pollock the go to fish these days. The key thing that GAPP is doing with its partnerships and focus on the US market is building for the day that some of these other factors reverse themselves. The US industry can’t control whether warm water fish is available for surimi. They can’t control for a downturn in the European market due to deteriorating economic conditions, or the fallout from Brexit. They can’t even control the impact of trade wars on pollock. What they can do is solidify pollock protein in the US market, and this is a strategy which will pay long term dividends, regardless of the external factors that currently support high priced pollock markets.
As evidence of this new market strength, GAPP is holding its first ever Wild Alaska Pollock industry-wide Annual Meeting next month in Seattle.
“I think the theme for this first-ever event really says it all,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive Officer of GAPP. “There has never been a more exciting time for this fish and it’s time that the entire industry came together to celebrate, collaborate and continue to build momentum for our perfect protein in the global marketplace today.”
I don’t think I could agree more.
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