Expensive Fish?

The four most popular fish – Cod, Haddock, Salmon and Tuna. As a nation we eat them everyday in some form or other. Friday’s are very popular on social media for “fish and chip Fridays” so there’s that, but also we enjoy those fish at home; Salmon being the go-to fish for most people.

Why? Why these fish? And just how many fish species are around our UK waters?

A lot is the answer.

Among the usual suspects, the UK has perfectly sustained stocks of Hake, Coley, Megrim, Turbot, Halibut, Brill, Bream and on and on. We have amazing shellfish stocks in the UK including Langoustines, Prawns, Scallops, Mussels and more. We literally have a smorgasbord of fish and seafood surrounding our nation and yet we fall back to those same four fish again and again.

How does that happen? Are we not curious creatures, looking to try new flavours and textures in our food? We are, but not when it comes to fish and part of the reason lies with the supply and distribution in the industry.

The supermarkets for example, (we make no secret we’re not big fans of their profit over provenance attitude), are the gatekeepers of the nation’s larders. They present their choices of goods for sale and we must buy either one thing or the other. Take Tesco – if their chilled section is 61% Cod or Cod products and 29% Salmon then how do we have a choice?

Most of us have no access to a traditional fishmonger and must rely on the supermarkets to provide fish, meat and vegetables.

If any one of us went into Tesco, or any of the big supermarkets, and we attempted to buy Hake, we’d likely be sorely disappointed. Hake has been MSC certified as completely sustainable since July 2018, the perfect fish to be eaten and marketed, but nothing has materialised thus far! It seems to have swum away.

There will always be a demand for the 4 popular species of fish, but there’s also demand for other tastes, textures and the demand to facilitate sustainability by choosing fish other than Cod, Haddock, Salmon and Tuna. People are inherently good and want to do their part for conservation and sustainability, but can’t easily do so thanks to Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrison and Asda.

What happens when we all want the same fish?

A common situation, the price of Salmon has been growing steadily in the last 12 months. This is not due to some incident at a fishery or less Salmon being produced, rather it’s simply the rise in popularity of Salmon in China. As a nation China have developed a taste for Salmon. This has placed a crushing pressure on Salmon stocks, and following the supply and demand model, Salmon is now more expensive.

The less supply of an item, the higher the demand, the higher the price.

As a nation we could shell out significantly less for our fish if we were properly utilising other species. Therefore, we need to start placing sustainable and quality orientated species on our menus and use this fish when we cook at home.

It’s the responsibility of the chef – place sustainable species on your menus.

It’s the responsibility of the supermarkets – offer more choice and an even spread of species (not 61% Cod)

It’s the responsibility of all of us – we need to stand up and say no! We want different species of fish. We want cheaper fish not in such high demand or the choice to switch if we choose!

We want to be allowed to do our part.

 

 

Make the Most of Christmas

We often get asked by Chefs, “what should I put on my Christmas menu”?

“How much will a turbot supreme cost me?” “Can you set a price?” Sometimes 6 months prior to the Christmas period itself, during the summer months.

Pricing is difficult; however, patterns emerge year after year and we have tried to give some guidance below on what to expect.

“Wild” fish is wild and sometimes you take a chance on purchasing and what to select for that all important menu. We endeavour to keep people well informed, but it is advisable for you to speak to your sales contact in advance of your requirements, so we can get the best fish and price for you.

We understand pricing complexities in this fast-paced last-minute culture we live in.

We have created festive season guides HERE which will guide you on availability and pricing during the Christmas period.

-Marrfish Wild fish Green Guide – supply is consistent and pricing stable.

-Marrfish Wild fish Orange – supply can be limited and prices higher.

-Marrfish Wild Fish Red – supply extremely limited and prices WILL be high.

Our boats and their crews tie up at Christmas for around two weeks for a well-deserved break with family and friends.

This downtime is dictated by fish market operating and opening times across Europe, and transport companies providing their services, very frustrating for chefs who are tied to the stove throughout the festivities!

The last fish markets could be as early as 20th-21st December, re-opening 3rd-4th January as a rule of thumb. Wild Fish will be purchased up to the last market and fish will be held as best as possible during Christmas and New Year. Farmed fish are generally pre-order and received strategically up until Christmas with further deliveries scheduled between Christmas and New Year.

For new year menus we would recommend either pre-freezing your fish requirements or using pre-ordered farmed fish which we would expect to have available – see our farmed fish guides below.

Wild Fish – Green (good availability / prices stable)

-Large Scottish Cod – 32-80oz – Plentiful

-Codling Fillets – 4– 32oz

-Haddocks – 4-24oz – Plentiful

-Whiting – 5-7oz

-Large Coley Fillets – Ideal to cut into Supremes, good winter supplies, good quality fish

-Local Herrings – Lowestoft landings

-Sardines – South Coast supplies good

-Scottish Hake Whole 2-6kg fish – still good catches seen, supply can tail away near to Christmas represented in price rises but not too significant

-Plaice – plenty about whole and fillets showing signs of forming roe

-Skate Wings – underutilised on Christmas menus

-Halibuts – good supply of Norwegian Line Caught fish 3-50 kg – deals to be had on Big fish – get some tucked away in the freezer –Top Tip!

-Tuna Loin – Plentiful

-Swordfish Loin – Plentiful

-Canadian Lobster – Plentiful

-Oysters – Plentiful

-Crabs – Live

-Crab Meat – Pasteurised and un-pasteurised Hand Picked, very popular this year

-Mussels – Rope Grown, sales slowdown at Christmas but they are still available and at their best!

-Scottish Cockles – large white great garnish to a dish, a Marrfish secret ingredient

-Palourde Clams – great supply, great garnish

 

Farmed Fish – Green (good availability / prices stable)

-Farmed Salmon – Plenty (Factor in price rises at the mid/back of November every year – supply and demand orientated – with lots being smoked ready for Christmas!)

-Farmed Bass – 300-400gm, 400-600gm, 600-800gm, 800-1000gm – Plentiful

-Farmed Bream – 300-400gm, 400-600gm, 600-800gm – Plentiful

-Farmed Turbot – 1-2 kg, 2-3kg, 3-4kg – great value when looking at Wild Christmas Turbot prices – don’t be afraid to have a go with this resource

-Farmed Halibut – 3-5kg, 5-7kg, 7-9kg – plenty

-Farmed Dover Sole – 500-600gm

-Farmed Meagre – 2-3kg, 3-4kg

-Farmed Carp

-Farmed Arctic Char – Houghton Springs 2-3 kg fish

-Farmed Sea Reared Trout – great alternative to salmon, lovely colour

-Farmed Chalk Stream Trout

-Farmed Rainbow Trout – 10-12oz, 12-14oz, and fillets

-Fresh King Prawns Raw – 10-20, 30-40, 40-60, 60-80 counts

 

Wild Fish – Amber (moderate availability / get organised – prices reasonable to high)

-Pollock – Can be found in Scotland and on the South Coast

-Lemon Sole – Price rises inevitable as they go short, reliant on South Coast as Scottish Supplies dry up. Consider the ‘Humble Megrim’ as an alternative – good deals to be had up until Christmas, Scottish & South Coast supplies available. A very underutilised fish indeed

-Brill – (tip: small sizes good value 300-1kg size)

-Dover Soles – buy late November and freeze. (Can reach £28 per kg Christmas week)

-Monk Tails – buy late November and freeze. (Factor in big price increases nearer Christmas week, available, but tails can reach £18kg Christmas week

-Scallops, Dry Scottish – Factor in big price increases nearer Christmas week, can reach £27kg Christmas week (Use USA Roeless – more stable on price)

-Scallops in Shell, Hand Dived – (Available if not too windy)

-Wild Seabass – Line caught but dependant on weather, so this can be feast or famine! Great alternative is Farmed Meagre or large Farmed Bass 1-2 kg

-Wild Fish – Red (poor availability / military operation – Prices high Guaranteed)

-Red Mullet – (hit and miss) – not a good idea for a menu choice

-John Dory – (hit and miss) – not a good idea for a menu choice (can reach £17-18 per kg)

-Large Turbots – can reach £30.00 kg for 4kg + fish during Christmas weeks and generally priced for the elite – farmed is a great alternative

-Native Lobsters – (highest price bids on the continent dictate prices paid can reach £30kg)

-Live Langoustines – available 4 kg boxes live tubed day 1 for 3. (Notice recommended)

-Mackerel – (hit and miss) – Netted and line caught fish mixed size and qualities can reach high prices if limited availability – (reliant on South coast fishery only)

-Razor Clams – (hit and miss) weather dependent, not as readily available as they used to be due to the banning of electro- fishing

-Wild Black Bream – A summer fish! Make the most of this great specie in the hotter summer months

 

Other Stable Christmas Fish & Seafood

Smoked & Cured

-Smoked fish is readily available with the favourites being Salmon, Mackerel, Trout, Eel and Haddock

-Cured Salmon Gravlax or Beetroot cured Gravlax. With more specialist gin and tonic or Whisky cures available

-Prices remain stable and can be organised in advance for you to cost dishes correctly.

Deli Items

Crayfish Tails in Brine, Peeled Prawn In Brine, King Prawns In Brine, Anchovies, All luxurious Caviars, Avruga caviar, Salmon Keta, Seafood salad in Oil, Bisques, Squid ink, Imported Samphire Grass, Tobiko, Tuna Pouches, Lumpfish Roes, Sardines in Basil, Brown Shrimps peeled, Rollmops and various Seaweeds.

Frozen favourites

Peeled Prawns, lemon Sole Fillets, Lobster Meat, Crevettes, King Prawns – Head on Shell on, Peeled King Prawns, Squid tubes, Smoked Trout, Smoked Halibut, John Dory Fillets, Black Cod, Patagonian Toothfish, Hamachi, kippers, Smoked Shell on Prawns and Langoustines, whole and peeled.

The Price of Fish

We all prefer fixed prices for our goods and services, so why does the price of fish change so much?

The value of any item is determined by many factors, not just the cost to produce the item, but also demand. If an item is in short supply, but high in demand, prices will rise.

Supply and demand is a simple concept; a company will produce or stock a certain amount of an item and place it for sale. The more demand for an item, the more people will bid to pay for it, the higher its perceived market value.

Fish supply can be affected by many factors, namely seasonality, sustainability and therefor availability. At certain times of the year some species of fish become unavailable, whether it’s due to a restriction in the name of sustainability (over-fishing) or restrictions designed to allow fish to reproduce and spawn without interruption, securing future generations of fish. At these times the fish will be less plentiful in supply, but buyers and their customers still want those fish and they will pay a higher price to buy them. If another buyer wants the same fish, they will have to pay an even higher price to outbid their competitor – very much like how an online auction works.

Bad weather is a huge factor the affects the price of fish – a severe storm can hinder a fishing boat at sea and if the conditions are bad enough none of the fishermen will go out to sea. That has a knock-on effect as there will be less fish available for purchase, leading to price rises.

Fish are sold on markets all over the UK each day of the week, the biggest of these being the market we operate from in Peterhead, Scotland. Fish markets operate a traditional style auction whereby fish buyers shout out their bids to secure the produce at the best price possible. Bidding wars can take place if two buyers both require the same fish. The true price of that fish will be reflected in the price their customers pay for the fish.

The toy industry regularly sees buying frenzies when a toy becomes popular with children, is limited in stock and then sells for a hugely inflated amount. In the computer industry, the rise in popularity of crypto-currency and the digital “mining” of crypto-currencies has caused a worldwide shortage for PC graphics cards meaning there are less in circulation leading to a huge rise in price.

Supply and demand can affect any industry.

What’s happening with the price of fish, namely Salmon?

Salmon is a staple on British menus and has been growing in popularity year after year. Smoked salmon, or unsmoked, are both popular whether it be at offered for sale at an event or for cooking at home, salmon is a fish in high demand everywhere.

As a nation, China have developed a taste for salmon which only serves to increase demand on salmon producers across the world. Recent surges in demand in China for Salmon have vastly contributed to the rises in price. China like salmon and will pay a high price for it. In fact, this has been happening a lot in the last 12 months or so and looks set to continue.

A boat was recently intercepted by Vietnamise authorities that was attempting to smuggle tons of salmon into China. The smuggling ring managed to get away with smuggling $98 Million worth of Salmon. That fish was seized and destroyed leading to a knock-on effect regarding the available supply. With the rise in popularity of Salmon in China, demand is incredibly high, supply is becoming more limited and is driving up the price for customers all over the world.

Why not just catch more Salmon?

The issue is not as simple as catching more fish. Fishermen have to adhere to fishing quotas – a limit set on individual species of fish to prevent over-fishing – and only a certain tonnage of any species of fish is allowed to be caught in any year. If we didn’t stick to these limits, then fish would start to vanish from our oceans.

Salmon that live in the wild aren’t vast in numbers (not enough to meet demand) and due to this we mainly consume farmed salmon, grown in pens placed in lakes or the sea. This is the only way enough salmon can be produced to meet demand, and with a country the size of China suddenly creating an additional spike in demand, it’s becoming a very limited resource. Salmon farms only have a certain capacity and are heavily regulated, so they must adhere to keeping a certain number of fishes in a pen, which limits the output of each farm.

By law, fish require a certain amount of room to swim around for their wellbeing. Adding more fish into the pen is not legal or practical, and the investment required to increase the number of pens at a farm is massive and not something that can be done overnight – thus the demand remains high and supply limited.

What can we do?

There’s not much any of us can do to keep the price of fish low or stable. Perhaps attempting to move consumers to look at more sustainable and cheaper species is the only way the ensure we are utilising the fish we have available around our coastlines and paying less for it. Alternative or completely different fish would ease demand on salmon production and prices and expose consumers to new flavours and textures of fish.

There’s a whole ocean of different species out there, let’s start to utilise them.

Your Plaice or Mine?

Plaice, the stalwart of the fish and chip shop. The humble flat fish consistently present in our lives.

The plaice season started a couple of months ago, although this year the actual season started a little late due to the winter water temperatures, the season is now in full swing and plaice are plentiful and in great condition.

Plaice is a flat fish with a slightly sweet delicate flavour. It’s seen as extremely versatile and can be poached, baked or pan fried. It’s an interesting looking fish with a dark green olive colour and bright orange spots. The brighter the spots the fresher the fish. They start life looking like a traditional fish, swimming upright with eyes either side of their heads. As they mature the eyes move to the top of the head and they start to swim on their side, which now becomes their underbelly. This has puzzled scientists who have studied this for years and continue to do so. No one really understands why this happens on flat fish and not in other species.

Plaice live on the seabed once they have gone “sideways” and feed off creatures that live there. Their diet mainly consists of worms, small crustaceans or other little critters that live on the seabed.

During their spawning season plaice migrate to deeper waters. They stay there until they have spawned and then return to shallower waters. It’s during their spawning season that plaice develop a poor overall condition as they generally starve themselves before they breed. The fish also develop soft bellies, much like the consistency of jelly, and should be avoided during those months not only because the condition of the flesh is poor, but because we don’t catch or supply spawning fish.

We let our fish stocks grow and recover naturally and spawning is part of that process. When a fish is out of season a good practice would be to source an alternative, not pursue the species you want to extinction.

Once thought to be in danger of being over-fished, plaice now reside on the list of fish of least concern – meaning there’s plenty of them and they’re spawning in large numbers. This is due to the seasonal restrictions put into action to secure the future of the species and prevent over fishing. This method clearly works.

The plaice season properly starts in June thru to October when the fish are in great condition and plentiful. They are as “fat as butter”, as the saying goes, with all sizes available.

Our preparation complex manager, Glen, has 25 years’ experience dealing with and sourcing plaice – it’s a bit of a specialty and one of Glen’s favourite species. Our team in Grimsby can prepare our plaice in any way you desire such as skin-off, fillet, quarter cut and more – all cut by hand.

As a nation we need to use species that are in season – it’s our responsibility. We have to decrease pressure on fish that are in danger of becoming overfished or those that are in such demand the prices are sky high.

The humble plaice has a place in our hearts as it’s unassuming, tasty, versatile and inexpensive.

Order your fresh plaice today by calling 01279 50 10 51.

Our boats catching plaice right now: –

ArdentAttainCourageousOcean Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Sea Trout Season

Wild sea trout is now being offered to Marrfish on a daily basis, from Northumberland in particular. The run of sea trout is well under way.

We are receiving the sea trout in its freshest form from Drift Netters who land on the East Coast of Northumberland. There is a season for netters who are licensed to fish and have a limited number of tags available for the season. Wild Sea Trout caught by a legal net or trap in England and Wales must have an Environment Agency carcass tag attached through their mouth and gills. These must remain attached until the fish are processed. The netters set their nets early morning off shore and would return to the nets in the evening to see what has been caught, tags are attached to the fish, put on ice and sent to us via our partners in the trade.

The season for Wild Sea Trout is from April –August, we generally get chefs asking for them as early as April but we must be patient for mother nature to decide when we get them so it is always best to take direction from us before it is considered viable for a menu. The first Sea Trout caught fetch heavy premiums and are sort after as you can imagine and over the weeks price slide to an affordable rate but you still pay a premium for the unique texture, flavour, taste and colour of this precious harvest. Wild sea trout are migrating back up into the rivers to spawn just as Wild Salmon do.

Marrfish sustainability rating – Some argue that we are intercepting a wild specie coming back to spawn/reproduce but this is the case with many wild fisheries as we follow them around their habitat at sea – to intercept and catch migratory stock – so a responsible approach we feel is to take advantage of the licensed fish when they are available and to utilise them as a weekly blackboard special and to class them as a treat for the menu and your customers and rely on the sea reared trout for printed menu slots.

Pot Caught Norfolk Lobsters

Beautiful Norfolk pot caught Native Lobsters are available @marrfish throughout the summer months

The partnership we have with our local potter from Blakeney works second to none, he uses our salmon and cod frames (our by-product) to bait his pots which attract lobster and crab off the North Norfolk coastline, believe it or not Lobsters as actually quite fussy and will not eat Haddock bones!? Simon delivers his catch into us once a week so we can offer lovely local shellfish with the minimum of fuss to menus throughout East Anglia and London.

Simon would lay up to 10 shanks for 5 days, each shank containing a string of 25 pots, once hauled up onto his boat he personally inspects each Lobster, if they are berried (carrying eggs) they will be returned to the water of North Norfolk with a small v notch in the tail, this is made by Simon using a tool which looks like a pair of pliers, this allows the lobster to breed and mature for a further year until she sheds her shell which is a yearly event. A landed ‘notched’ lobster is an offence and carries a hefty fine with the local fisheries officer, now that’s what I call a responsible inshore system for the humble Lobster.

The size of the lobster is important. By law they have to measure 87 mm from the back of the eye socket to the back of the carapace, if it is too small it will be returned back to mature for another day.

Local lobsters will be available throughout the summer as the water temperature stimulates their movement inshore, and the only time they go short is when they do shed their shells as they become vulnerable to predators and tend to hide up. Simon throws soft shelled lobsters over the side during this process as they tend not to eat well or last very long, during this time you will find lobster prices firming due to supply and demand and can last over a period of 4-5 weeks but subject to this seasonal ritual lobsters are good for your menu.

Marrfish sustainable review – our personal view is that it is super sustainable, a responsible managed fishery with clear concise guideline for landing, non-destructive method of catching, Seasonal, Less food miles.

Peterhead Mackerel Season

We are now entering exciting times at Peterhead Bay in Scotland, the water temperature is warming and attracting the local stock of seasonal coastal mackerel. It is line caught by many under 10 m vessels which berth all year in Peterhead harbour, the boats can be identified easily by the coloured cotton reels which sit on the boats which hold the many yards of line which lure the mackerel.

As pictured the ‘Be Ready’ would steam out early hours of the morning into Peterhead bay and drop its numerous lines, feathers attached which attract the resident mackerel, the line is jigged through various depths depending on where the shoals are sitting in the water column, hooked, then brought aboard and automatically stripped from the line by a stripper into awaiting kit boxes ready for market.

 

The boats would land into Peterhead market by day break and the fish actioned to local buyers and sent as far away as the continent for sale in supermarkets and to fishmongers up and down the British Isles

The availability is reliant on good weather and equally good prices, all boats have a quota to adhere to which is precious to all involved for this particular species which visits us during the summer months only and simply move on around the end of August.

Fish will now be available from these delightful boats until the end of August a must for a seasonal orientated menu and a lovely summer dish.