June 20, 2014This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Risky business in Bristol Bay. A sockeye market watch after this —
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Uncertainty best sums up the mood as fishermen and processors await the world’s biggest sockeye salmon run at Bristol Bay. In fact, it’s being called the riskiest season in recent memory in the 2014 Sockeye Market Analysis. The biannual report is done by the McDowell Group for the fishermen-run Regional Seafood Development Association.
Probably more so than any recent year processors are having pressure from both the buying side of the business with more competition for fish in the Bay – the entrance of Silver Bay Seafoods and Extreme Seafoods took over the Bay Watch plant. So there’s more competition for fish.
Andy Wink is Seafood Project Manager at McDowell. You’d expect more competition would boost prices for fishermen, he says – but downstream the market is murky.
On the selling side, there is a very large forecast from the Fraser River sockeye and that fishery takes place in August. So it will happen well after Alaska’s sockeye fisheries are done and so we’ll have to wait and see what the purchasing decisions are like. If buyers hold off and there is a big run it could leave Alaska processors holding some high priced sockeye inventory and we’ll have to wait and see what happens with wholesale prices. In general there are more downside risks this year than other years –
There’s all that farmed fish. Also in play — sockeye salmon from Russia is making big inroads in markets where it hasen’t before.
It wasn’t till last year when we really saw Russian sockeye going in any significant volume to markets outside of Japan. As our sockeyes become more expensive Japan has been buying more from Russia and also lots of Chilean cohos – so that’s taken market share in Japan. But last year we saw Russian sockey exports outside of Japan go up 580%.
On the upside, Wink says Alaska sockeye is an ever more popular brand, especially in the US.
There is reportedly strong demand from salmon smokers in Europe and strong demand in the US market. That’s really taken a lot of market share and really supported the entire Bristol Bay fishery over the last several years.6
All buyers, he says, have commented that quality of salmon from Bristol Bay has gotten much better in recent years. The higher the quality, the more money for all involved.
Every time a fish goes thunk or hits something hard or gets thrown by the tail that could be a five dollar bill going up in smoke right there.
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