PME: Bait sourcing getting more challenging and expensive

Published on
November 18, 2016

Sourcing bait for the world’s fishermen is becoming increasingly difficult, with shortages of popular baitfish spiking prices and forcing suppliers to search for alternatives.

Speaking at the 2016 Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, Washington, Chuck Paiva, president of International Marine Industries, said popular options like squid and herring have been hard to source this year, resulting in his company trying out alternatives like Pacific saury and sardines from Morocco.

“This year, the squid fishing has been awful, and the herring biomass getting depleted,” Paiva said. “Many fisheries are facing shrinking quotas and that puts more pressure on the rest of them, decreasing supply while demand remains level or is even going up. In the end, that probably results in higher bait prices, even though we are always doing our best to find new, less expensive sources of bait.”

Paiva said International Marine Industries is one of the leading commercial bait suppliers to the Pacific Northwest and to fisheries around the world, annually handling tens of millions of pounds of bait. He said general consensus amongst fishermen has settled on real bait as opposed to artificial bait, and that most large American fisheries, including Alaskan crabbers and longliners, prefer high-fat fish.

Finding ample supply of the bait most in demand has become extremely difficult, Paiva said, likening to a game of whack-a-mole.

“We’re now having to look for new fisheries each and every year,” he said. “As soon as we find one source, others do too, and the pressure increases on it. Right now, we’ve just started sourcing Pacific saury and it’s flying out the doors. That shows in price – the price of saury has gone up last two years pretty significantly.”

Similarly, the price of another favored bait source, the Argentine illex squid, has gone up 65 percent this season due to much smaller supply due to the effects of El Niño, Paiva said.

Still, Paiva doesn’t believe that current trends will result in a bait shortage so severe it could impede global fishing.
“We will always have a bait source,” he said. “It’s our job to find out which is the best option at the best time of year for each fishery.”

That job is much more difficult than most fishermen think, Paiva said.

“It involves logistics, international trade, documentation, financing, storage, shipping, currency valuation…a lot of factors people don’t realize. Because in a lot of these fisheries, we’re only catching these baitfish at one time during the year, we’re buying 10 million pounds at a time, so have to have the resources to purchase that volume and the storage capacity to hold it,” he said. ‘It’s a lot more complicated than most people assume.”

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