Salmon prices uncertain for Copper River opening

Published on
May 13, 2014

There is uncertainty and high prices in the wild and farmed salmon market, leading up to the Copper River salmon season opening this Thursday 15 May.

The industry is abuzz with the excitement of the Copper River opening, but they expect tight supply at first and high prices with the limited fishing period. The Copper River District is only open for 12 hours for commercial fishing on opening day.

“Major retailers like Kroger jump in at the beginning. We expect to have fish in sometime late weekend, and get it to our retailers the first to mid-part of the following week,” Harry Mahleres director of purchasing for distributor Seattle Fish Co. in Denver, Colo., told SeafoodSource.

Wholesale prices are expected to be as high as USD 20 per pound for Kings. “Some consumers are willing to pay USD 45 (EUR 32.83) a pound for the first King salmon. There are always people who want to be the first on their block to have it,” Dirk Fucik, owner of seafood market Dirk’s Fish in Chicago, told SeafoodSource.

Meanwhile, farmed Atlantic salmon prices remain strong, due to low production in Chile. Stricter government regulations seeking to stem ISA outbreaks have caused the temporary closure of major farms. Some will not be back online until mid to late summer.

Prices have gone up USD 0.10 (EUR 0.07) to USD 0.15 (EUR 0.11) a pound in the past week, and are averaging USD 5.50 (EUR 4.01) to USD 5.85 (EUR 4.27) a pound wholesale, buyers report.

“Production is down, there is not a lot of wild supply right now, and there was demand for Mother’s Day, so prices are staying firm until next week,” Mahleres said. “It is a real volatile market in Chile, and we will continue to see that through June, depending on the success or failure of some of the wild markets.”

Buyers are unsure how the lower overall Alaskan salmon supply will impact pricing and availability. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) recent 2014 salmon forecast projects an overall decrease in the commercial salmon harvest of a stunning 47 percent. The projected drop in total commercial salmon is primarily attributed to pink salmon, which is in an off year for the run.

However, King salmon production will be higher this season and the projected Alaska sockeye salmon harvest is 14 percent higher than in 2013, forecast for nearly 34 million. ADF&G also projects higher Coho and chum salmon runs at 4.4 million Coho and 19.9 million chum salmon.

In addition, the British Columbia sockeye salmon season is expected to offset some of the lower Alaska pink salmon harvest. If early predictions are correct, the Fraser River could have the biggest salmon run in B.C. history this summer. Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the forecast ranges from a low of 7.3 million to a high of 72.5 million.

“We are looking for one of the biggest — or the biggest — wild salmon season we have ever had. Everybody is jazzed about wild salmon and is looking for big numbers,” Mahleres said.

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