There are a lot of things I like about fishmonger Jon Alexis of TJ’s Fresh Seafood Market. He’s a born salesman and a dedicated purveyor of seafood. I know he doesn’t operate the only market in town, but he is the only operator who had the cajones to write this on his Facebook page yesterday:
Public poll – would you pay $50-60 per lb for Copper River King Salmon? And should TJ’s bring it in if we personally wouldn’t pay that price for it?
Why are the prices so high? “They are literally only catching 25% of the expected harvest of Kings,” Alexis says. “The huge institutional buyers who can sell it as a loss leader are buying all the product leaving nothing for most of the nation.”
Alexis put me in touch with Dave Tremblay of Pacific Seafood Company. Tremblay has this to say:
The first Copper River opener was a bust, especially for kings. The weather was good and the sonar fish counters up river were seeing fish, but this did not translate into a good catch. They caught about 20% of the expected kings and the price is about 15-20% higher this year for those fish if you can get them.
The sockeye catch was better but with the first 2 openers occurring before Memorial Day weekend the demand is high and these fish are selling at a 25-30% higher price than last year. The market has changed over the last few years as Copper River salmon used to be sold primarily to restaurants and smaller independent seafood markets. Now we also see larger chain super markets jumping in to the fray especially on sockeye further pressurizing the supply.
As for the salmon themselves, they do not always head up river as the biologists predict and sometimes they stay in the ocean and wait for the water temperature, flow, or other factors only they know to start their journey.
Damn nature. They have no concern for food marketers or economists. If I was a maker of an alternative protein such as tofu, I’d jacking my prices today and printing up pretty brochures. Prime meat and some seafood are almost untouchable for the majority of consumer.