MARKET REPORT | BUYING TIPS | HEALTH / NUTRITION
Although West Coast fisheries biologists say fishermen off California, Oregon and Washington could catch as much as 25,000 metric tons of Dover on a sustainable basis, annual catches the past few years have hovered just above 5,000 metric tons. Part of the lack of Dover production is due to the catch share, or individual quota, management regime, which was enacted in 2011. That greatly reduced the size of the groundfish fleet and the boats left focus on higher value species like petrale sole or black cod. As the old fishermen’s axiom goes, “We don’t fish for fish, we fish for money.”
Another problem is that the market for Dover is still limited to the western U.S., especially the Northwest. Although with fresh fillets selling for just under $4/lb. Dover remains a good value, producers have yet to spend much effort developing new markets.
Processors have upped what they pay for Dover from $.40/lb. two years ago to $.44/lb. last year, but that’s not even enough to cover increased operating expenses. So for the foreseeable future, fishermen will turn to Dover when there’s nothing better to do.
Pacific Dover sole is sold fresh and frozen whole, headed and gutted as well as dressed, and in fillets, however it is nearly always filleted due to its slimy skin. Dover sole from the Pacific has a delicate taste and firm-textured flesh, although it is not as mild as European Dover sole. Since flatfish quality can vary immensely, buyers recommend looking for Dover sole that has uniform color and lacks bruises. They also recommend against purchasing these fish whole since soft-fleshed fish may not be detected until after they’ve been filleted. Availability of Dover fresh sole varies throughout the year while frozen or thawed Dover sole primarily from Alaska is available year-round.
Dover sole may be substituted for other types of flounders and soles.
SPECIES VULNERABILITY | ABUNDANCE | HABITAT IMPACTS | BYCATCH | MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS
Pacific Dover sole is not actually sole but a flatfish more closely related to flounder. Larger in size than European Dover sole, Dover sole found in the Pacific is long-lived and has medium fecundity. Dover sole are also known as “slime” or “slippery” sole because they excrete mucous that makes them difficult to hold.
Dover sole, found in the waters off California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska, have variable abundance that is considered healthy overall. Dover sole levels in the Gulf of Alaska have been increasing in the past 15 years and the biomass there is now more than double the target population level.
Dover sole are primarily caught using trawls. Other gear used includes hand lines and traps. While trawls can negatively impact rocky seafloors and reefs, the trawls in this fishery target the flatfish in the soft muddy areas where they live. Those areas tend to be more resilient to trawling, so the impact is minimal.
There is little bycatch in the Pacific Dover sole fishery, helped by a relatively new catch-share management plan on the West Coast and gear improvements that help trawler avoid bycatch hotspots, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Dover sole in the Pacific are managed with other deep-water flatfish such as petrale sole. Management limits on petrale sole, which was overfished, are expected to have a positive impact on Dover sole, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Management measures in the fishery include gear restrictions, limited entry permitting, a catch-share program, area closures, and conservative annual catch limits.
The supply of Atlantic pollock, a.k.a. saithe, is declining slightly due to quota reductions on both sides of the Atlantic. The single biggest Atlantic pollock fishery, which is off Norway, should produce landings of about 140,000 metric tons this year, down about 6,000 metric tons from last year. At the annual Groundfish Forum, which was held in Rome this fall, the supply was predicted to be about the same in 2015.
Closer to home it looks like landings of Atlantic pollock from the U.S. and Canada fisheries will be about 10,000 metric tons, which should be about evenly split between the two countries. U.S. fishermen, though, may be hard pressed to catch their full quota due to the increasingly strict cod by-catch regulations, as cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine are at record low levels.
Imports of twice-frozen Atlantic pollock fillets from China have dropped sharply this year. Through August, U.S. imports from China were just 441 metric tons, compared to about 1,000 metric tons last year. In spite of the sharp drop in supply, the average price to importers dropped from $1.14/lb. to $1.04/lb.
On the fresh side of the business, prices on the Fulton Fish market in New York have been running between $1.50-$3.50/lb. for whole fish, depending upon supply.
Atlantic pollock is low in saturated fat and is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. The flesh is firm and white, and has a sweet, delicate flavor. This pollock is a member of the cod family but distinguished from cod by its greenish hue, paler belly, and brownish green back. It is sold whole, in fillets, and steaks that are fresh, frozen, or smoked. Atlantic pollock are larger, slightly darker flesh, and have higher oil content than Alaskan pollock, which is actually a different species.
Atlantic pollock may be substituted for Atlantic cod, monkfish, sea bass.
Atlantic pollock matures quickly and has high reproduction rates, which are characteristics that make its inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure low.
Although the Canadian pollock fishery was historically overfished, it is currently recovering. In the United States, the Atlantic pollock fishery is rather small but considered healthy. Norwegian pollock stocks are also stable and healthy. In Iceland, overfishing is occurring and the Atlantic pollock stock status is poor, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The gear used to catch Atlantic pollock varies by region, but consists primarily of bottom trawls, bottom gillnets and Danish seines. Bottom trawls and Danish seines can heavily impact the seafloor and damage ocean habitat while the purse seines that are predominant in the small Norwegian fishery have little contact with the seafloor.
Bycatch levels in the Canadian, Norwegian, and Iceland pollock fisheries remain unknown, although the risk is considered to be moderate based on the gear used, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Bottom gillnets risk ensnaring marine animals, and have been a high concern in both the U.S. and Canada due to documented incidents where protected species were caught. In addition, lost gillnets in the eastern Atlantic have entangled non-targeted fish long after they’ve been abandoned.
Management measures in the U.S. as well as the North Sea or Northeast Arctic regions of Norway are considered highly effective. They include area closures, size limits, gear restrictions, dockside monitoring, logbook reporting, catch quotas, and observer coverage. In Iceland and Canada, extensive management measures are in place but total allowable catch levels have still been set higher than scientific recommendations. Management effectiveness in these countries continues to be a moderate concern.
This year’s quota for this prized fish is up again to just under 3 million pounds, as the stocks along the East Cast are considered fully rebuilt. As of May 14th fishermen had caught about 43% of their quota. Landings should pick up in late May and June as more fish migrate up the East Coast to Virginia and New Jersey, which are the two top black sea bass producing states. As landings pick up, prices to distributors for whole black sea bass should stabilize between $4 to $5/lb.
Black sea bass flesh is firm and lean, with a mild, delicate flavor. According to some buyers, black sea bass that are caught with hooks tend to be the best quality, followed by trapped fish. Make sure the uncooked flesh is sparkling white and translucent, not opague. Black sea bass tends to only be frozen when the market is glutted or demand is low and because it is a hardy fish, it is also sold live.
Black sea bass can be used as a substitution for a variety of snapper.
Due to elevated mercury levels, the EDF recommends:
FISHERY IMPACTS ON STOCK | HABITAT IMPACTS | BYCATCH | MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS
Fishery Impacts on Stock
Black sea bass are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they start as females and mature into males. They have high fecundity but they grow slowly. Black sea bass are divided into two fisheries, the Mid-Atlantic and the South Atlantic, with the line marked by Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. In 2000 the Mid-Atlantic stock was declared overfished. In 2005 scientists discovered overfishing was occurring in the South Atlantic. In recent years both populations have recovered and an early 2013 Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch report stated they were classified as not overfished.
Most black sea bass are caught by commercial fishermen using with pots and hook and line gear, which has a low to moderate effect on the seafloor. Some black sea bass in the Mid-Atlantic is also caught using otter trawls, which have higher rates of habitat damage, particularly to live coral and reef habitats. For this reason, the Monterey Bay Aquarium gave the otter trawl for northern black sea bass a red ranking. Trawling has been banned in the South Atlantic for more than 20 years.
Black sea bass fisheries have gear requirements such as escape vents in pots to prevent undersized fish from being caught. Bycatch in pots is minor because the gear is not usually baited for black sea bass, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. In the Mid-Atlantic, otter trawls are nonselective so there is more unintended bycatch. The Monterey Bay Aquarium reported that the Mid-Atlantic otter trawl fishery was shown to have a negative impact on loggerhead turtles, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act.
In the Mid-Atlantic fishery, strict management measures such as minimum size limits, minimum mesh requirements for trawls, a moratorium on entry into the fishery, and closed seasons have helped black sea bass stocks recover from being overfished. The post-2005 rebuilding plan for the South Atlantic included limits on permits, minimum size limits, gear restrictions as well as rules that prohibited commercial fishing once the annual quota has been met. The Monterey Bay Aquarium called fishery management in both regions highly effective in its 2013 Seafood Watch report.
BUYING TIPS | HEALTH / NUTRITION
The highest quality lingcod is caught by hook-and-line gear and when the fish is bled and put on ice immediately. Most lingcod is caught as bycatch in other fisheries, but there are some targed fisheries, namely Southeast Alaska. Raw lingcod flesh can have a blue-green tint, this is perfectly normal, and when cooked it turns a snow white color. Look for a grayish flesh color and/or blood spots to signal mishandling and dull eyes and faded gills on whole lingcod indicate a lack of freshness.
Many chefs prefer lingcod to halibut.
SUMMARY | BIOLOGY | HABITAT
Lingcod is neither a cod, nor a ling, but rather it is a Pacific greenling. Found only in the North Pacific Ocean, U.S. and Canadian fishermen have been harvesting lingcod for more than 100 years. Nicknamed "bucketmouth" for its large head, lingcod have 18 sharp teeth. The body of the lingcod tapers from its head to its tail and its back is usually a variation of dark gray, brown, and greenish colors with copper colored spotting on the upper back.
Lingcod grow quickly and can reach lengths of five feet weighing 80lbs.. Lingcod can live up to 20 years with males reaching maturity around age 2 (20" long) and females age 3 (30" long). The spawing process of lingcod involves males claiming suitable territory for nesting, females making only a brief appearance to lay eggs, and males guarding the nests until they hatch in 8-10 weeks. As lingcod develop they move from eating zooplankton as larvae, shellfish as small juveniles, small finfish (such as herring) as large juveniles, until they become aggressive predators as adults feeding on bottom dwelling fish and shellfish. Larval and juvenile lingcod are important food sources for salmon and rockfish, while marine mammals and sharks rely on large juvenile and adult lingcod as food sources.
Lingcod are found in the northeastern Pacific Ocean from northern Baja California to Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, but they are most abundant between Washington and British Columbia. Adult lingcod prefer rocky bottoms at depths of 30-300 feet with males showing very little movement from where they were born and females migrating seasonally to spawn.
FISHERY SCIENCE | FISHERY MANAGEMENT
There are currently no population estimates of lingcod in Alaska and the populations along the U.S.West Coast are estimated from analyzing data from resource surveys and fishery monitoring.
The State of Alaska manages the lingcod fishery in both state and federal waters of Alaska. To protect this species from overharvest, lingcod fisheries in Alaska are conservatively managed to ensure enough fish are left to reproduce and replenish the population. Management measures:
Current management of lingcod on the West Coast is covered under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan:
Since January 2011, the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery has been managed under a trawl rationalization catch share program. Managers establish annual catch limits based on the health of each fish stock and then allocate a share of this catch limit to individual fishermen or groups of fishermen. Fishermen can decide how and when to catch their share – preferably when weather, markets, and business conditions are most favorable, allowing the fishery the flexibility to be more environmentally responsible, safer, more efficient, and more valuable. The goal is to allow fishermen to catch more of the healthy target stocks (such as lingcod) without increasing their harvest of overfished stocks.
Lingcod is actually a bottom-dwelling Pacific greenling harvested from Alaska to California with the most concentrated around British Columbia and Washington. They grow quickly, the females are fairly fertile and the males guard nests until the eggs hatch although many animals eat the eggs. Seafood Watch reports from 2014 give lingcod a medium inherent vulnerability score overall. In 1999 lingcod was declared overfished but several years of strict catch limits helped the fishery get rebuilt ahead of schedule in 2005. Assessments from 2009 showed the stock to be well over target levels, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
Lingcod are mainly caught by bottom trawls and handlines in the groundfish fishery. They can get accidentally caught by the bottom longline and salmon troll fisheries, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service reported. Bottom trawlers can have a significant impact on the ocean habitat but restrictions in place limit the use of this gear, somewhat mitigating the effect, according to 2014 Seafood Watch reports for the West Coast and British Columbia.
Although bycatch used to be an issue in the lingcod fisheries, bycatch went down 75% following the implementation of a management plan on the West Coast in 2011, the Environmental Defense Fund noted. Improved gear has also helped trawlers targeting lingcod avoid bycatch hotspots. There are generally few true “bycatch” species caught in substantial amounts in the groundfish fisheries, Seafood Watch reports from 2014 noted.
In Alaska, lingcod is managed by the Department of Fish and Game. The lingcod fisheries are managed with other groundfish by the NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council on the West Coast, and by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in British Columbia. The catch-share management plan implemented in 2011 on the West Coast has been credited with bringing down bycatch numbers in the fishery. Management measures include gear and catch restrictions, minimum size limits, and seasonal closures. Seafood Watch found that the West Coast and Canadian lingcod management regimes had strong aspects. However, a 2014 report noted challenges with management strategy, implementation, and recovery of stocks of concern in British Columbia.
Still widely known as “poor man’s lobster,” monkfish will be easier to come by now that NMFS has tweaked the byzantine rules they use to manage what’s left of the groundfish fleet off the Northeast. Under the new rules, which were approved this February, the groundfish fleet can have separate “monkfish days at sea,” which will not be counted against the boat’s “groundfish days at sea.” In addition, NMFS has raised the amount of monkfish a boat can offload on a given trip from 300 pounds to 600 pounds.
The result is that fishermen will be more likely to catch the total monkfish quota, which is about 6,000 metric tons off New England and almost 9,000 metric tons in the mid-Atlantic region. Monkfish stocks in both areas are considered to be in very good shape and no overfishing is occurring.
There’s a good chance the price of fresh monkfish tails, which have been selling to Northeast distributors in the $6-$7/lb. range, could ease back to the $5-$6/lb. level as landings pick up this spring.
Monkfish have a mild taste and texture similar to lobster to the extent that they are sometimes called “the poor man’s lobster.” Fishermen tend to remove monkfish tail meat and livers to sell, discarding the rest. Monkfish is sold fresh whole, in skinless tail fillets, and whole skin-on tail fillets as well as frozen skinless tail fillets and whole skin-on tails. The tail meat is dense, boneless, firm and should have flesh that’s off-white to pale gray when raw. Avoid tails that are discolored at the edges and headless monkfish that have dried up blood, indicating it’s begun to age.
fresh & frozen products
Monkfish may be substituted for lobster and scallops
The FDA advises children (ages 0-6) limit consumption to 3 meals/month
Monkfish, a deep-water species found along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada, have characteristics including slow growth and dense aggregation that make them vulnerable to fishing pressure. Following increased demand in the 1980s and 1990s, monkfish were found to be overfished in 1999. Fishery managers implemented a rebuilding plan and in 2008, monkfish was declared rebuilt. Stock assessments done in 2013 showed that monkfish is not overfished or subject to overfishing, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.
Monkfish are caught with either bottom gillnets or bottom trawls. While bottom trawls and gillnets can have a significant impact on seafloor habitat, the gear used to catch monkfish operates in muddy and sandy areas that tend to be resilient to disturbance, the Blue Ocean Institute reported.
The monkfish fishery has bycatch that has included protected species such as sea turtles, large whales, harbor porpoises and Atlantic sturgeon, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Bycatch primarily occurs through entanglements with gillnets, but strict measures are being taken to reduce the risk. The Blue Ocean Institute reported that it is difficult to attribute gillnet deaths of marine animals and turtles to a particular fishery.
Monkfish fishery management measures include area closures, area restrictions, annual catch limits, minimum harvest size and gear requirements such as limits on large-mesh gillnets. The Monterey Bay Aquarium reports that total allowable catches have been frequently exceeded in the past, although the fishery has been improving on that in recent years. The monkfish fishery previously had an "Avoid (red)" rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium but management actions and changes to the biomass targets helped that change to a "Good Alternative (yellow)" rating in 2012.
The big news in the oyster business is a continued surge in the production of both farmed and wild oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. Now that regulators in Maryland allow oyster farmers to lease lands, that state is starting to enjoy the same oyster renaissance as Virginia oyster farmers on the other side of the Bay. Harvests in Virginia jumped past 500,000 bushels in 2013, growing another 25 percent to reach the highest levels since the mid 1980s.
As more farms in Maryland come on line, harvests there could soon surpass Virginia’s. In 2013, Maryland watermen harvested 488,000 bushels, the best oyster harvest in 15 years. Furthermore, the population of wild oysters in Maryland has more than doubled since 2010 and recent population surveys indicate there are more oysters in the water since the state began population surveys in 1985.
While Bay oyster stocks are healthy, harvests are still a fraction of the 15 million bushels harvested out of the Bay in 1884. An indication of just how robust Chesapeake Bay oyster production is is the fact that Bay oysters are being trucked down to Louisiana for shucking, a dramatic reversal of the situation just a few years ago when Chesapeake shucking houses trucked oysters up from Louisiana to stay in business.
At the same time the Bay oyster industry is booming, oyster producers in Louisiana and Florida’s Apalachicola Bay are struggling. Production in Louisiana, historically the leading oyster producing state in the country, is off 70 percent since the triple whammy of Hurricane Katrina, the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and government efforts to increase freshwater runoff into the Gulf to flush chemical pollutants from the Mississippi waterway.
Meanwhile, oyster producers in the Pacific Northwest are increasing their production and taking advantage of surging demand and prices for oysters for the lucrative halfshell trade.
Oysters prices have increased steadily in recent years and distributors on the East Coast say prices for select oysters have risen above $12/lb.
A good supply of live half shell oysters and oyster meat is available year-round. Oysters should be bought live and smell like the sea, not sulfurous. Check for freshness by tapping on the shells to see whether they close. The meat from oysters grown off the bottom in farms tends to be higher, making it a good substitute for dredged oysters. Oysters can be kept up to two weeks after collection at 36–38F in a breathable container. Buyers should look for the origin and collection date on a live-oyster shipment, which are required by law. A variety of volume measures are used, so buyers recommend insisting on easily quantifiable units such as by the piece or by the pound. Usually Olympia oysters cost the most, followed by European, Kumamotos, Pacific, and Eastern.
Oysters from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico may carry Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, which is naturally ocurring, but the concentrations increase during summer months and can be harmful to humans with compromised immune systems. Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) comes from eating oysters that are contamined with toxic algae, also known as "red tide" from the color associated with the algal blooms.
POLLUTION & HABITAT | MARINE RESOURCES | RISK TO WILD STOCKS | MANAGEMENT | ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS
Oysters filter water, cleaning it so in some places oyster farming improves the habitat, although this is not universal. Pacific oysters are the most widely cultivated in the world and they are usually raised on ropes, in trays, or on the ocean floor in coastal and near-shore areas.
Farmed oysters don’t require feed so there is no loss of wild fish, and they require little or no drugs or chemicals.
Oyster farming has little risk of escapees because they aren’t capable of movement as adults. While some cultured oysters could reproduce in the wild, shellfish producers have stricter management codes than the laws that apply to the industry. The introduction of non-native oyster species to some areas, there have been some negative interactions with wild stocks. Risk of disease transfer is considered moderate because isolating oyster diseases can be very challenging.
The regulations governing oyster farming in developed countries and some developing ones are strict and include best management practices. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, farming industry practices tend to be more stringent than the laws that apply to growing shellfish.
Site by Fuse IQ