British Columbia

Salmon prices high despite strong sockeye run

Commercial fishermen in B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island are celebrating their first opportunity to fish for Fraser River sockeye salmon in four years, but consumers are advised to prepare for prices to stay high.

Price pressure based on recent losses, Japanese demand

Commercial fishermen in B.C.'s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island are celebrating their first opportunity to fish for Fraser River sockeye salmon in four years, but consumers are advised to prepare for prices to stay high.

After a series of lean seasons in which sockeye runs were paltry on B.C.'s southwest coast, at least seven million and as many as 11 million of the highly prized salmon are expected to return to spawning grounds this year.

"The trends so far this year are that we are getting more fish," said Department of Fisheries area director Barry Rosenberger. "They are coming in a little later than expected, but generally things have been very favourable."

On Thursday, DFO officials gave the green light to seiners to start fishing for sockeye between Port Hardy and Campbell River and to sports anglers to throw in their lines on the Fraser River all the way to Mission. Gillnetters were included in the opening Friday.

Recovering losses

"For the first time in four years, you are going to be able to go to your local fishmonger or the dock, or your local supermarket, and find wild Fraser River sockeye on the shelf," said Phil Eidsvik of the B.C. Fisheries Survival Coalition.  "And that's a great day for British Columbia."

Despite the high number of fish expected, that might not translate into lower prices, according to Dave Moorehead of Longliner Seafoods in Vancouver.

Moorehead said the industry will be trying to recover some of its losses from recent years.

"I don't think the prices will drop drastically, [with] the money going into [salmon] enhancement and the money that fishermen are getting."

Prices also might be kept high due to high interest in B.C. sockeye from Japanese consumers.

"Fraser River fish is world-renowned for the oil content in it," said Ted Kim of Seven Seas Seafood Distributors in Vancouver. "We've already had a couple of calls [from Japan]. They've had a huge demand over there for salmon."

In each of the last three lean years, prices have increased by as much as 15 per cent, said Kim.

He said sockeye fillet now retails for close to $22 a kilogram and he agrees with Moorehead that prices could stay at that level even if the 2010 sockeye run is bigger than anticipated.

With files from the CBC's Steve Lus and Robert Zimmerman

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