Stability spelling profits for many premium whitefish species

Published on
January 25, 2018

Supply and pricing stability has spelled success for many species categorized under the premium whitefish label, a panel at the 2018 Global Seafood Marketing Conference reported on Wednesday, 24 January. 

Reports given on snapper, swordfish, sablefish, grouper, and halibut were short and positive, with industry professionals familiar with the markets for those species saying catches had been steady and pricing had not fluctuated dramatically.

“It’s a story of stability,” one panelist summarized. “I don’t want to say ‘boring,’ but it is boring,” 

Such stability, while unexciting for the purposes of discussion, is welcome news for suppliers, the panel agreed.

“It’s not necessarily about relatively high or relatively low prices for any commodity,” a seafood company executive said. “If prices are stable for a long period of time, we see demand overall expand.”

Quotas for most of the above-mentioned species will rise in 2018, a sign of positive management practices and solid markets, the panel said.

Even species known to have more fluctuating catch levels have becoming “boring” recently, including Chilean sea bass, which has seen the amount of illegally caught product decline, though prices hit 20-year highs as customers have regained trust in the fish due to recent sustainability certifications and interest in toothfish has grown in China , according to one panelist. 

An outlier to the trend of stability was mahi, which struggled in 2017 due to lower import levels, led by a zeroing of production in Ecuador and a high rate of refusals, which “continue to plague imports,” a panelist said. This lack of stable supply is leading to high pricing in U.S. restaurants, which in turn has forced mahi off menus, though demand still remains for select markets, the panel outlined.

At the conclusion of the panel, in reviewing the data presented, one panelist remarked on the clear importance of stability in the finfish marketplace.

“Whatever we can do to drive consistency in quality and price, that will drive sales,” the presenter said.

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