US - An unexpected closure in the Gulf of Alaska will leave many West coast vendors scrambling for inventories of flatfish this Fall, reports Rob Reierson in the Tradex Foods 3-Minute Market Insight.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has prohibited directed fishing for groundfish by trawlers in the Gulf of Alaska as of Oct 22nd.
Other than Pollock and Rockfish, trawlers will not be targeting important flatfish species to prevent exceeding the 2016 Pacific Halibut bycatch limits.
The news comes as a shock to many - we saw the same closure last year around this time, but it was not expected this season.
--- The Bering Sea will remain open for Groundfish at this point in time.
The 2016 Pacific Cod Total Allowable Catch for Pacific Cod in the Bering Sea is 239 thousand metric tonnes, comparable to 72 thousand in the Gulf of Alaska which is now closed.
Groundfish harvests from the Bering Sea are mainly shipped to Asia for further processing into twice frozen fillets and portions for North America.
The closure in the Gulf will have predominately impact groundfish products available from Gulf processors.
As of October 22nd, 38.4 thousand metric tonnes of Pacific Cod had been caught in the Gulf of Alaska.
In January, trawlers in the Gulf will fish Pollock and Cod and some boats will resume targeting flatfish.
Expect new season Cod and Pollock fillets in Seattle around late February and March, as production will begin in January and February.
The market opened with first products available last March at $3.60 / lb for 8-16oz Shatterpack cod fillets in Seattle.
Current pricing is now in the range of $3.65 - $3.85/lb in Seattle for 2016 production, which will be short until the A season production arrives.
--- Vendors who were relying on harvests of Rex Sole, Rock Sole, Flathead Sole, Arrowtooth Flounder in the Gulf of Alaska will now have to rely on already established inventories.
Arrowtooth Flounder raw material is typically destined for China, but Sole buyers might seek domestic options like Plaice instead.
Existing inventories of Rex Sole from the Gulf of Alaska were available at $0.75 / lb in Seattle this week for Whole Round block frozen 200-400gram "medium" Rex Sole. There will be no replacement product for this item so buyers should think ahead for inventory needs as there will not be new production available until March.