The commercial salmon season is off to a strong start, but many local fishermen say neither they nor the consumer are reaping the rewards.
Fishermen are catching so much salmon that wholesale prices have crashed from $9 per pound down to $5 per pound, where it’s remained for a couple of weeks.
“There’s even talk of it going down to $4 a pound and if it does I’ll tie my boat up, it’s hardly worth the wear and tear,” said Frank Sousa, a Half Moon Bay-based fisherman. “It’s hardly worth it at $5.”
That price did prompt many local fishermen to tie up their boats and strike for a few days last week.
“Word got out on the dock that someone went to three stores and all three of them were selling at the same price prior to the reduction in the amount of money being paid to the fishermen so a bunch of them were upset,” said Jim Anderson, a Half Moon Bay-based fisherman. “The price is lowering for fishermen, but the consumer is not paying less as these prices are going down. The fisherman’s point of view is if their price is being lowered then it should be lowered for the consumer.”
Prices at many local stores have dropped slightly this week and many of them are currently selling salmon for between $26 per pound and $28 per pound.
Still, the timing and degree of price reductions is not sitting well with many fishermen.
“The price should’ve gone down a long time ago,” Sousa said. “You would think it should be about $24 per pound [in stores].”
Fisherman Scott Edson said buyers are having trouble moving as much salmon as they have in the past.
“We had such cut-down seasons the past several years so restaurants have taken king salmon off menus and markets [across the country] have shut down because the fish price previously went so high so they went for farm fish,” he said. “Hopefully buyers will have better infrastructure in place to move product and get a better price.”
Sousa hopes the wholesale price will stabilize in July when the season closes for about 11 days, allowing buyers time to sell off the fish they have.
Anderson said fishermen will also benefit from the increasingly larger salmon being caught. A couple of weeks ago, salmon catches ranged from 7 1/2 pounds to 9 pounds, he said, while this week they’re closer to 11 pounds. The higher weight allows for more meat recovery from each fish, which makes them more marketable, he said.
While fish continue to grow throughout the season, Edson said July will bring a new challenge: salmon from Alaska.
“In July we compete against the gillnet fish from Alaska and the market will be even more flooded,” he said. “In typical years, July is the lowest price of the year and we’re already at $5. We’re going to see something happen.”
The commercial season will shut down briefly between July 1-11 and then it will reopen for almost all of August and September.
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