From friend Willie Warner of Boston's Steve Connolly Seafood Co. news about the price of salmon in 2009. Expect it to go up anywhere from 35-50% just in 2009, and in 2010 - well it may just go higher. One year after the crippling outbreak of Infectious Salmon Anemia in Chile, the virus is still raging, forcing the government to begin regulating the management practices of salmon farmers to amend the damage done so far.
2008 saw a record $2.4 billion in Chilean salmon sold to the U.S., partly attributable to the large numbers of salmon harvested prematurely when the illness broke out. These were placed into frozen storage until sold, word on the street is that dockside leased freezer space was at a premium. But early harvesting didn't make the disease go away, so more measures are in store including stricter regulation of aquaculture permits, limiting use of antibiotics and slowing down the production cycle to allow for environmental recovery.
The result of the premature harvest and new regulations means that the production of salmon in Chile is expected to drop 70-90% by 2010. "Production is dropping from about 390 metric tons last year to under 200 this year", according to Robert Chandler, seafood buyer for Steve Connolly's, "and restrictions on starting new stock essentially shuts down infected sites until August. It will take 18-24 months for new schools to mature to a harvestable size".
This is the price that the Chilean producers may have to pay for poor farming techniques; overcrowded salmon pens allowed the disease to spread to a devastating level.
While a fish killer, this disease is not harmful to humans. But it does weaken infected fish, making them susceptible to parasites and lice infestations before they die, which can be harmful. And some testing of imported fish has revealed the presence of chemicals used in infection treatment that are banned in the United States, moving Safeway (or in my 'hood, Tom Thumb) to restrict imports from Chile. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is still allowing imports of farmed fish under special scrutiny for now, for which I am sure we are all reassured.
Tempering the declining Chilean supply is the Norwegian and Scottish salmon industry, which due to the declining Euro and rising U.S. prices sees our market as strong and they are trying to fill the void. Canada also has a large salmon industry, Steve Connolly's salmon comes from the Bay of Fundy, off the shores of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They ship overnight fresh Atlantic seafood to several restaurants in Dallas, and they have an exclusive retail relationship with TJ's Seafood Market in North Dallas.