Pollock scarce as groundfish prices fluctuate in US Northeast

Published on
July 30, 2019

The Northeast groundfish fishery kicked off 1 May. The federal government shutdown last winter meant some management changes, like Framework 58 which changes catch limits on several stocks, faced delays.

Groundfish prices seem to be fluctuating. Bert Jongerden, general manager of the Portland Fish Exchange, a wholesale auction in Maine, said fleets are “mostly bringing in Gulf of Maine haddock, dabs, and white hake, it’s balanced among those.”

Gulf of Maine haddock appears steady, with the average price for large around USD 2.78 (EUR 2.49) per pound. Demand for dabs for restaurant markets is high, with USD 4.50 to USD 5.00 (EUR 4.04 to EUR 4.48) for large dabs.

Fleets are hauling high volumes of redfish, with low prices. Another low point is monkfish.

“Tails are very soft, sometimes less than USD 1.00 [EUR 0.90] per pound on auction,” Jongerden said. It is a pattern that has been seen for a few years – potentially a result of robust supply but cold European markets, which set the price.

“A lot of gillnetters are targeting monks to avoid cod, because there is a terrible cod problem. The fish are there,” Jongerden said. Average prices for cod were USD 3.24 to USD 3.81 (EUR 2.91 to EUR 3.42) per pound as of late June.

All eyes are on Atlantic pollock, Jongerden said.

“Gillnetters are just not seeing them, no large or mediums,” he said. Pollock (aka Boston bluefish) is popular in New York markets.

“They can’t get enough,” George Parr, a Maine fishmonger, said.  “It used to be my cheap alternative. Now hake is my cheap alternative!” 

Large pollock are USD 3.75 (EUR 3.36) per pound, up from around USD 1.75 (EUR 1.57) per pound last year – compared to USD 0.35 (EUR ) a decade ago.

“We have a pollock issue and cod problem,” Jongerden said.

Discussions about cod assessments are ongoing and sometimes heated. A major action, called Amendment 23, intended to improve the groundfish monitoring program is being developed.

“Right now, we’re on track to go out to public hearing sometime this winter,” New England Fishery Management Council member Janice Plante said. 

Several other groundfish-related actions are under development, including Framework 59, to “set 2020 catch limits for our shared U.S./Canada stocks of cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder on Georges Bank,” she said. 2020-2022 catch limits will be set for most groundfish stocks through this framework.

Photo courtesy of Portland Fish Exchange

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