There was much anticipation going into the 2015 Bristol Bay sockeye season this year, with some 54 million sockeye salmon forecasted to return. While the final return of sockeye may fall just short of the pre-season forecast, the 2015 sockeye season was a historic one, with a much higher than average return and a surprisingly late, long run. As of July 26, 51 millon sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay with 35 million of those fish harvested. The peak of Bristol Bay’s run came in about 10 days later than usual this year.
“The season started slow and there was a lot of nervousness on the water, but, as always, the salmon came swimming home on their own schedule. And when they finally did show up, they came by the tens of millions! We had a few rough weather days, but it was an unusually sunny season with lots of rainbows and beautiful sunsets, and the best news is that we have plenty of sockeye for our customers,” said Jason McKinley, Bristol Bay Fisherman and Owner of Caught Wild Salmon.
Unusually late timing of the salmon’s return kept fishery managers, fishermen, and seafood processors on their toes as they waited to see how things would play out. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game kept a close eye on in-season fish numbers and managed fishing efforts day-by-day to ensure that escapement targets were met in all the Bay’s major rivers.
This year’s huge return is good news for chefs and other seafood buyers who source Bristol Bay sockeye and depend on its consistently abundant runs and year-round availability. Because the majority of Bristol Bay sockeye is flash frozen during the peak of the fishing season, late July and August signal the real start of the Bristol Bay salmon season for consumers.
“When you’re dealing with a wild food like sockeye salmon, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s part of the beauty of it and what makes it so special,” said William Dissen, Chef and Owner of The Market Place in Asheville, North Carolina. “I’ve served Bristol Bay sockeye in my restaurant for the past few years and am thrilled to once again be able to provide it to our customers who’ve come to expect it on our menu.”
Others in the marketplace are also pleased with this season’s sockeye return, including the national company Plated, which features Bristol Bay sockeye salmon as part of its meal-delivery menu. “Being able to source and provide Bristol Bay sockeye to our customers is an important part of who we are as a company, and key to our commitment to purchasing sustainable, healthy protein,” said Keith Lydon, Vice President of Operations at Plated.
Consumers around the country can now purchase Bristol Bay sockeye directly from fishermen through Community Supported Fisheries, farmers markets, and buying clubs. A list of Bristol Bay sockeye suppliers can be found at www.bristolbaysockeye.org.
Salmon Brands of Oslo, Norway was awarded the top prize in the 15th annual Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition at Seafood Expo Global. The winner was selected from a field of 37 finalists and was announced this evening at a special Seafood Prix d’Elite reception.
The top award for best new retail product was given to Salmon Brands for its entry, Salmaraw. This ready-to-eat sashimi kit provides 90 grams of fresh salmon sashimi with sachets of ponzu sauce and sesame seeds, and a specially designed eating utensil. The product is presented in a unique airtight and leak-proof pack that beautifully displays and preserves the high quality of the salmon. The judges particularly noted that this product was very well conceived and executed from start to finish.
In addition to the grand prize, the judges also gave five special awards:
Salmaraw from Salmon Brands was also presented the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Originality. The presentation of the salmon sashimi kit in a long tray is unique and elegant, yet still allows the consumer to eat the product directly from the package. This combination makes it well positioned for consumers who are looking for healthy take-away meals.
The Seafood Prix d’Elite special prize for Health & Nutrition was awarded to Marine Harvest of Brugge, Belgium for its product, Duo Norvégien au Four. The naturally healthy combination of cod wrapped in a thin slice of salmon is packed in an oven-ready aluminum tray and gives the consumer an easy way to serve an elegant seafood preparation at home.
The Big Prawn Company of Melton Constable, England in the United Kingdom was awarded the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Convenience for its product Seafood Rarebit. A seafood take on a classic Welsh dish, this frozen retail product offers two pastry cases filled with king prawns and topped with a sauce flavored with English cheddar cheese, mustard and spices. The topping melts down over the prawns and into the pastry during cooking. Perfect for a light lunch or part of a main meal, the product offers consumers a new, easy way to enjoy seafood.
The Big Prawn Company was also presented the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Retail Packaging for its product, 2 Crayfish Thermidor Bakes. Designed for special holiday occasions, this product features twin ramekins filled with crayfish tails in a creamy thermidor sauce flavored with white wine, shallots and mustard, then topped with a ciabatta Grand Padano cheese breadcrumb. The package is elegantly designed with full-color photos of the prepared dish and a clear window to see the ramekins, which are covered with clear plastic domes. The package provides complete information for the consumer on nutrition, ingredients, product origin, preparation, and package disposal.
Rockabill Shellfish Limited of Balbriggan, Ireland was presented with the Seafood Prix d’Elite special award for Seafood Product Line for its “Something Fishy” line of seafood infused butters. Offered in Sweet Onion, Dulse and Asian Infusion flavors, the products combine Irish butter with freeze-dried and milled seafood protein, dried seaweed and seasonings. The result is a culinary butter that provides the savory deliciousness of umami to both enhance and complete the flavors of prepared dishes. The products can be used to flavor sauces, finish risottos, pastas and rice dishes, or to spread over seafood before or after cooking.
At the discretion of the judges an award was not given this year for best new foodservice product. Although the judges noted some positive aspects of the products entered in the category, they felt that in many cases the information provided by entrants was incomplete, and therefore it was not possible to choose an overall winner in the category.
The winners of the 2015 Seafood Prix d’Elite were chosen from a field of 37 finalists representing 11 countries. The winners and finalists are on display at Hall 11, Stand 2501 at Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global, which runs now through April 23.
The judges for the 2015 Seafood Prix d’Elite new products competition were Debby Verheyen, Seafood Product Expert for Delhaize Supermarkets in Belgium; Thibault Faucon, Supply Chain Manager for Sodexo in Luxemburg; Filip Keersmaekers, Seafood Category Manager for Makro & Metro Cash & carry in Belgium; Ian Nottage, Chef Director with Reynold’s Catering Supply in the UK; and Dominique Fenech, National Director of Seafood Purchasing for Monoprix in France. Ms. Verheyen served as chairperson of the jury.
The Seafood Prix d’Elite finalists were judged on taste and overall eating experience, packaging, marketability, convenience, nutritional value and originality. The judges’ scores were verified by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young.
Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America, formerly the International Boston Seafood Show/Seafood Processing America, has expanded significantly to strengthen its position as the largest seafood trade event in North America. The event is taking place March 15-17, 2015 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.
For the first time in its history, the business-to-business exposition will exceed 200,000 net square feet. Diversified Communications, producer of the event, cited international exhibiting companies as a key area of growth.
“Reports state 91 percent of seafood in the United States is imported from other countries, showing promise to international companies looking to expand their foothold. Regionally, there is notable influx in new participation from Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Morocco and Spain,” said Liz Plizga, Group Vice President for Diversified Communications. “The increase in participation signifies the importance of Seafood Expo North America for companies, worldwide, looking to penetrate this market.”
More than 20,000 seafood professionals participated in the exposition in 2014. The thriving event serves as an avenue for buyers sourcing seafood products and related services. The exhibition is also complemented by an educational conference program, master classes, culinary demonstrations, an oyster shucking competition and the Seafood Excellence competition.
“While the expo is designed as a platform for buyers and suppliers to network and do business in just three days, the special onsite activities provide them with an opportunity to enhance their experience at the event,” said Wynter Courmont, Event Manager. “It is truly exciting to see this event continue to prosper.”
In 2014, 84 percent of the visitors surveyed indicated the intent to purchase as a direct result of the exposition. The visitors’ survey also revealed that the top three objectives for attending were to meet with existing suppliers, find new suppliers and compare products.
Premium New Zealand Ora King salmon has been recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable.
Following a year-long assessment process, a report released on Monday by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s globally respected consumer guide, Seafood Watch®, has rated New Zealand’s marine-farmed salmon, including Ora King salmon, as “Green,” meaning it is a “Best Choice” for consumers.
Seafood Watch is produced by the independent conservation organization Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation and is the authoritative consumer guide on sustainable seafood in North America.
New Zealand King Salmon is the first and only ocean-farmed salmon to have achieved the Green/Best Choice rating from Seafood Watch.
The ratings are a strong endorsement of New Zealand King Salmon’s sustainability credentials.
Ora King is raised by The New Zealand King Salmon Company in the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds in a country that is “characterized by strong (aquaculture) management systems and pristine marine and freshwater ecosystems,” the guide says.
New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne says aquaculture makes a major contribution to relieving pressure on the world’s fisheries. “We have been highlighting for some time that our industry equals sustainable jobs and healthy, mindful eating,” he explained, “and the report supports what Kiwi salmon farmers have long maintained.”
Ora King salmon was launched in the U.S. market in 2012. Two decades in the making, Ora King is a specific breed of salmon raised especially for the premium restaurant trade.
Chef Matt Lambert of the Michelin-starred Musket Room restaurant in New York City has visited the Ora King farms on many occasions. He said, “The Seafood Watch ‘Best Choice’ rating confirms something I’ve believed since my first visit to the farm. When a product comes from such a pristine environment, and is treated with the utmost respect, the end result will always be fantastic. Ora King salmon is that kind of product. It makes my job easier and more enjoyable.”
Mr Rosewarne says Ora King represents the pinnacle of his company’s achievement. “The brand is founded on more than two decades of traditional breeding, reinforced by our world-leading expertise in growing King salmon,” he explained. “The species is itself a rare luxury. The Ora King brand builds on all the fine traits of the King salmon species – it is to salmon what Wagyu is to beef.”
Snapshots from the Seafood Watch report reveal:
For more information, visit orakingsalmon.com.
By David Bernard
Time was, when you wanted to experience top-quality caviar, there was one game in town (or rather one sea in town): the Caspian Sea. The Soviet Union and Iran, with Caspian shoreline, had sole access to the species of sturgeon that provided the world’s most delicious caviar, which retailed for hundreds of dollars per ounce. However, today, retailers wanting to procure some of the best “Russian” caviar available, may take their shopping trip far and wide – to China and Uruguay, for example.
With exports of wild caviar from the Caspian Sea and other locations banned or mostly banned since 2006 due to poaching, overfishing, pollution and shrinking habitat, American caviar importers have turned to a growing global aquafarm industry. This is yielding some delicious results.
The key to sourcing the best caviar is to keep your eye not so much on the fish, but on the farm. While most aquafarms started their operations with the prized Caspian Sturgeon, Russian Osetra or Siberian Sturgeon (chosen for its rapid rate of maturation), it is the individual farm’s processes and practices that determine whether the fish turn out world-class “Russian” caviar or an also-ran product. While feed is not typically a distinguishing factor in product quality – there are only a few large-scale feed producers worldwide – aspects such as how much and what kind of vitamins are given and the strength of a country’s regulatory practices play important roles in ultimately determining caviar quality.
“My job is to go to visit every single farm to see if they have close to a natural situation,” said Max Moghaddam, President and owner of Bemka House of Caviar & Fine Foods, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based importer and distributor. “The quality of the water is most important. If a farm is landlocked and water is a limited resource – maybe they’re using only 10 percent fresh water and recycling the rest – that’s not really a farm we want to work with.”
In addition to China and Uruguay, countries producing farmed caviar include Italy, the world leader in the production and export of such caviar, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Israel, Canada, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran and a number of former Soviet Republics. Russia produces a significant amount of caviar, but most is consumed by the country’s large domestic market.
Today, the main varieties of caviar imported into the United States continue to be Russian Osetra and Siberian Sturgeon. Some hybrids are sold as well, for example Bester, which is a hybrid of the Caspian native Beluga and the smaller Sterlet Sturgeon. Beluga caviar itself is banned from import or sale in this country, because the Beluga Sturgeon is an endangered species.
Marky’s, based in Miami, sources its top-selling Osetra from an Israeli aquafarm that uses a continuous flow of mountain stream water. The Karat Osetra caviar is sold in Black, Amber and Gold varieties. The Amber is a particular hit, juicy but with a firm grain and distinctive nutty clean taste.
While foreign aquafarms are turning out quality caviar, domestic production has grown as well, thanks to both lower pricing and increased demand. With the overall dip in world production that occurred between the banning of much wild caviar and the growth of the farmed caviar industry, domestic producers were able to fill part of the supply void.The caviar from California White Sturgeon, similar to Russian Osetra in size and taste, if a bit more fishy, now makes up more than 70 percent of authentic domestic caviar production and provides consumers with a gourmet product at a somewhat lower price.
“We find that White Sturgeon is a very good middle ground,” said Christopher Hlubb, President and COO of Marky’s. “It does not usually compete with products at the top such as Russian Osetra. Like most products, it depends on grade, but it positions itself as a very good product, although the price has risen and is nearing that of Russian Osetra.”
For retailers looking to offer consumers fish roe at an even lower price, there are a number of non-sturgeon “American caviar” products available (note: this term is also often used to refer to the authentic caviar from California White Sturgeon). Paddlefish roe, the “cousin of caviar,” comes from fish native to the Yellowstone River and Mississippi River system. Salmon and whitefish roe are also lower price-point options.
“We talk to customers and ask them what their need is,” said Dale Sherrow, Vice President of Seattle Caviar Company, which sells American caviar as well as a full range of imported caviar. “If it’s an event, what kind of event, how many people, what’s their budget. And for some customers, salmon roe is the perfect choice. You get that strong salmon flavor. It has a larger bead. It’s just delicious.”
While there are a number of tasty non-sturgeon roe products available, these are not necessarily a steppingstone for consumers to move into imported caviar. “We find a lot of customers have their preference, their budget, and they stay with it,” said Sherrow. “They get great tasting American caviar that can be used most ways.”
This story was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Gourmet News, a publication of Oser Communications Group.
Copper River coho will be featured at two culinary events in September—Alaska Public Media’s Second Annual Sustainable Chef on September 28 in Anchorage and the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event on September 26 in Seattle. Both events highlight regional foods, chefs and sustainability. The venues will be a unique opportunity to taste and sample this year’s robust and healthy commercial coho harvest.
Coho are the last of the salmon species to arrive in the Copper River Delta each year. Averaging about eight pounds, they are seen as the harbingers of fall. This year has seen a particularly strong and healthy run. Jeremy Botz, the Gillnet Area Management Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says the average weight of Copper River coho salmon this year is 8.8 pounds per fish, while last year the average weight was 8.1 pounds per fish. In addition to being larger in size, Botz also reports that overall it looks like this year’s commercial harvest in the Copper River District will be quite a bit larger than last year’s run. The total harvest reported as of September 12 was around 275,000 coho salmon compared to a total seasonal harvest of 229,000 coho last year. Botz also said that reports from the fishing grounds and the processors indicate that there are many large fish in the harvest and that quality has stayed high throughout the fishery.
While Copper River king and sockeye land on dinner plates and fish counters with an exciting splash each spring and summer, it’s worth noting the fresh Copper River coho being served at the two upcoming events will offer guests the opportunity to taste this year’s premium coho. The preparations will be decidedly autumnal in nature. Chef Rob Kinneen, who started Fresh49 will be creating a warm and soothing coho salmon pho with a vegetable tangle at the Sustainable Chef event in Anchorage. In Seattle, restaurateur Tom Douglas will be serving it smoked.
Douglas is a longtime fan of Copper River salmon and said, “We feature Copper River coho every year at our restaurants, and this year is awesome because the fish are bigger and fatter. For the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America event, we will be serving it with a creamy corn chowder. In preparation, we are cold-smoking the Copper River coho over hop blossoms at our farm in the Yakima Valley, and then we will serve it nestled on top of a creamy corn chowder. We are big fans of Copper River, and we celebrate it all year at our restaurants. It’s a great quality salmon and we sell a lot of it.”
Food safety lawyer Ron Simon has filed the first salmonella lawsuit against Costco and Norwegian-based Foppen stemming from a salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated Foppen smoked salmon sold at Costco stores nationwide.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Plaintiff Lorena Vasquez, a 39-year old resident of Mission, Texas.
In September 2012, Vasquez purchased a package of Foppen Norwegian Smoked Salmon Slices from the Costco located in Pharr, Texas.
Shortly after consuming the salmon, she experienced symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, and related dehydration and was diagnosed with salmonellosis.
As a result of her illness, Vasquez was hospitalized and underwent multiple surgeries.
The Costco / Foppen Salmonella Thompson Outbreak
In the late summer and fall of 2012, the Netherlands experienced its largest food-borne bacterial outbreak in history. The pathogen was Salmonella Thompson, which traditionally appears annually in single or low double-digit numbers in the Netherlands.
By August of 2012, approximately 60 culture-confirmed cases of Salmonella Thompson had been identified; in September, over 120 more were identified; in October, nearly 900 victims had tested positive; and in November and December, approximately 100 more were identified. By December, the count of new cases had slowed to about 20, and by January 2013, the outbreak was deemed over.
As soon as health officials in the Netherlands recognized that they were in the midst of a national outbreak, investigators and epidemiologists from the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) began to engage in a massive trace-back and epidemiological investigation.
It took investigators six weeks to determine and announce that smoked salmon was the source of the Salmonella Thompson illnesses. The salmon was the product of Foppen Paling & Zalm (“Foppen”) of Harderwijk, the Netherlands. Almost immediately thereafter, Foppen announced that the massive contamination of its salmon by Salmonella Thompson had occurred at its processing plant in Preveza, Greece.
By December of 2012, the RIVM had identified 1200 culture-confirmed victims, including four fatalities.
Costco Sold Foppen’s Contaminated Smoked Salmon in the United States
Significantly, Foppen’s contaminated smoked salmon was also distributed in the United States. According to Foppen company spokesman Bart de Vries, Foppen had only one U.S. customer, Costco, that had purchased large amounts of the fish.
On Monday, October 1, 2012, Costco initiated a recall and removal of the smoked salmon. Craig Wilson, Vice President of Costco, confirmed that the company was also in the process of contacting the 247,000 members who had purchased the contaminated salmon. Vasquez did not receive notice of the recall until after she had become ill.
Harald Wychgel, a spokesman for the Dutch public health institute, reported that as of October 2, 2012, his agency had received information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that at least 100 U.S. residents had been sickened with the identical strain of Salmonella Thompson found in Foppen’s contaminated smoked salmon.
Wychgel’s announcement was consistent with information provided by several states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all of which were conducting investigations of a spike in Salmonella Thompson cases in the United States. At least 10 people were hospitalized in the outbreak.
Leading companies from Alaska’s $6 billion seafood industry have announced their support for a ban on Russian seafood imports to the United States and urged Russia to rescind its August 7 ban on U.S. food imports. Such a move would not only further squeeze Russia’s faltering economy as Russia threatens European stability, but would support America’s sustainable, high-quality fisheries. The Alaska seafood industry is seeking support from the Alaska congressional delegation for the ban, as well as from the United States Trade Representative. It also seeks diplomatic efforts to immediately end Russia’s ban on U.S. seafood products.
Russia has been a major market for U.S. seafood products such as salmon roe, hake, Alaskan pollock, and others. The U.S. has been an important market for Russian products including crab, Russian pollock, salmon, caviar, and others.
The proposed U.S. ban would remain in effect until Russia rescinds its ban on U.S. imports, and would include mechanisms to prohibit all seafood imports of Russian origin, including Russian-caught seafood that is transferred through other countries such as China before reaching the U.S. Hundreds of millions of dollars of Russian seafood imports are sold in the U.S. every year, with much of the imported Russian fish coming through China.
“We did not start this fight, and we hope the Russians will call off their embargo. But a U.S. ban will signal to President Putin that America will not sit idly by while Russia disregards international law and tries to coerce the world into ignoring its transgressions through retaliatory actions,” said Terry Shaff, President & CEO of UniSea Inc.
Those endorsing the ban include Alaska General Seafoods, Alyeska Seafoods, Icicle Seafoods, North Pacific Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Peter Pan Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, UniSea, Westward Seafoods, and the members of the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.
What began in 1887 in a small fishing village in Spain is now available on a supermarket shelf near you. Not only is Isabel bringing its tuna, sardines, octopus and squid to the U.S. market, the company is also bringing its wildly popular Salad Bowls (shelf stable and ready-to-eat prepared salads) to the U.S.
The Salad Bowls have been a homerun in the European market for years. The healthy, ready-to-eat meals include everything anyone needs for a quick meal on the go in a single bowl. All you have to do is open, mix, and enjoy. The bowls even come with a spoon included! Isabel is introducing three Salad Bowl flavors here in the U.S.:
Isabel was the first to come out with the Salad Bowl product in Spain and is still the largest pre-packaged salad bowl producer in Europe. With the America desire for healthy eat on-the-go options, Isabel’s Salad Bowls are a perfect solution. And this product is already winning American fans.
For the Isabel Tuna purists who have tried one of the Naturtuna products — solid light tuna packed in either extra virgin olive oil or water — you already know the difference that distinguishes Isabel Tuna. It’s actual sliced tuna loin. No vegetable broth. No mixed chunks. Just tuna.
“There’s a noticeable difference even before you taste it,” said Sean Crotty, Isabel North America Vice President and General Manager. “One of the things we like to do is open a can of our tuna and then open a competitor’s. We flip them upside down on a plate. The other comes out as a lump of tuna pieces and ours comes out as one big piece. The tuna looks different. It doesn’t have the smell that’s associated with canned tuna. It’s milder. The taste and texture is very moist and mild.”
Isabel will also bring its line of specialty products including sardines in olive oil, octopus (in garlic sauce or olive oil), squid pieces in ink sauce and mussels in pickle sauce. These products appeal to the growing ethnic consumer base as well as the broadening American palate.
Already in Harris-Teeter stores (primarily along the East Coast) and other independent grocers from New York to Miami, Isabel products are expected to be in stores across the country soon.
“The heritage of our brand is important. We are a 125-year-old company. Although we’re new to the U.S., we’ve been a leader in the world market for many years. We also have significant involvement in the sustainability side of the industry especially working with the World Wildlife Foundation,” said Crotty. “We’re looking forward to continuing that work, as we introduce our products to the American market.”