Here's what halibut and salmon, farmed and wild, bring at the retail counters

PHOTO/Judy Patrick/Courtesy Phillips Alaska Inc.

Prices paid to Alaska salmon fishermen continue to make lots of headlines, so it’s interesting to look at what the fish is fetching at retail counters across the Lower 48.

Urner-Barry is the primary source that most market watchers turn to because it has been tracking U.S. food commodities since the early 1900s. A glance at its retail features over the July Fourth holiday showed these price trends per pound at major supermarkets for fresh salmon, both farmed varieties and Alaska wild, which includes salmon and halibut.

In New York and New Jersey, Alaska salmon "silverbrite" fillets were priced at $2.99, farmed Atlantic steaks were at $3.99 and fillets at $4.99. In the New York metro region, farmed fillets were fetching $5.99.

In Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, Alaska salmon steaks were featured at $3.99.

In Boston stores, boneless farmed salmon fillets were priced at $3.99-$5.99, while bone-in salmon steaks were retailing at $3.99-$4.99. No Alaska salmon was mentioned.

In Chicago, Atlantic-farmed salmon fillets were fetching $4.99-$7.99. Halibut steaks were listed at $7.69-$7.99.

In Florida, both farmed Atlantic salmon and wild Alaska salmon were priced at $4.49 for steaks and $4.99 for fillets.

In Atlanta, farmed salmon steaks were retailing for $4.99; Alaska halibut steaks were priced at $7.99.

Finally, in Los Angeles, farmed Atlantic salmon was on retail counters at $4.99 for steaks and $5.99 for fillets, while Alaska halibut was bringing $6.99-$7.99 per pound.

State forecasts on mark

Projections for Alaska’s annual salmon harvests have "been in the ballpark more often than not" over the last decade. That’s according to the latest Salmon Market Bulletin, which reveals that in seven of the last 10 years, Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts have been within 17 percent of the actual harvest. Last year’s projection missed by only 10 percent, and the Bristol Bay forecast was within 8 percent of the actual harvest.

The bulletin said that according to 2001 projections, chum catches are expected to decline from three years of record and near-record volume. The statewide projection is 15 million, down from a record 24 million last year. Pink catches are expected to rebound to 93 million, though there is uncertainty about the impact of massive over-escapement in 1999.

The king salmon harvest is projected at 419,000, a 15 percent improvement from last year’s weak harvests. The coho projection is 4.8 million fish, more than half of which are expected to be caught in Southeast Alaska.

License to krill

Krill could soon become a source of oil for the fish feed industry. According to Fisheries Information & Services, Norwegian researchers have brewed up a first batch of fish oil and fish meal using krill and will test it at several of the country’s salmon farms.

Snorre Tilseth, managing director of Norsildmel, the organization for sales and marketing of all fish meal and fish oil produced in Norway, stated recently that in five years, there won’t be enough fish oil on the market for fish feed producers.

"Last year 866,000 ton of fish oil went to the aquaculture industry. This year I expect the figure to increase to 900,000 tons, while the total global production will be 1.1 million tons," Tilseth told FIS.com. "It is very interesting to look at krill as a source of marine oil for future requirements. We have done research into krill before, but that was 20 years ago."

However, other researchers believe that due to the present lack of adequate large-scale harvesting methods and catch preserving problems, it would be a couple of decades before krill is harvested properly. It’s estimated that there are around 200 million tons of krill and other harvestable large zooplankton in Norwegian waters.

Some krill fisheries are presently carried out in Antarctic waters, where it is processed on fishing vessels and sold as krill-meal.

"It is an expensive product," said Tilseth, adding that some fishermen are interested in obtaining a "license to krill."

Test kit clarification

Ray RaLonde offered this important clarification to last week’s article on the new paralytic shellfish poisoning field test kit: The Jellett Biotek Mist Alert kit is a yes-or-no test set at 40 microgram of PSP toxin per 100 grams of tissue, one-half the level required by the Food and Drug Administration.

The portability of the kit for field application makes Mist Alert useful for screening shellfish to determine toxin levels before harvest and a valuable research tool for beach monitoring of toxin levels in shellfish. The Mist Alert does not replace the mouse bioassay test required for all commercially harvested or farmed shellfish.

The mouse bioassay remains the only FDA-approved test for detection of PSP, and commercial harvesters, processors, and shellfish farmers will still be required to follow existing regulations for submitting shellfish samples to approved laboratories for toxin testing. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Seafood and Food Safety Lab is the only approved laboratory in the state for PSP testing.

 

Updated: 
11/12/2016 - 5:56pm

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