In 1995, the world fish catch declined slightly from the record of almost 110 million tons reached in 1994. This came not as a surprise, as catches in South America were reduced from the very high levels of the previous year, in a move to protect the resource. Peruvian fish catches declined to 9 million tons, from the record 11.6 million tons in 1994. Despite the decline, Peru is still the world's number two fish producing nation. Chile also reported lower catches in 1995, though remaining the third largest fish catching country.
China continues to be the biggest global fish producer with 22.7 million tons, of which 50 percent comes from the expanding inland aquaculture industry. After the sharp decline prompted by the economic changes and the consequent restructuring of the fishing industry, Russia managed to produce more fish in 1995 than in 1994. Japan which used to be the biggest world fishing nation continues to lose ground. In 1995, Japanese production was reported to be 6.8 million tons, half of what it used to be in the mid-1980s.
Preliminary figures for 1995 indicate that total world shrimp production exceeded 2.6 million tons, of which farmed shrimp accounted for about 27 percent. Asian farms harvested approximately 558 000 tons, a slight decrease from 1994's total. The worlds top producer was Thailand, with 220 000 tons from about 20 000 farms. Production was initially affected by viral outbreaks, causing Thai farmers to quickly adopt new water management strategies. Disease also hit farms in Indonesia and India, where output for the year decreased. Both China and Vietnam maintained production at around 70 000 tons and 50 000 tons respectively. Farms in Bangladesh were not affected by the virus; production was some 30 000 tons. In the western hemisphere, Ecuador was the main producer, with 100 000 tons out of a regional total of 154 000 tons.
WORLD FISH PRODUCTION
Coldwater shrimp catches recovered in 1995. The Norwegian catch reached 46 400 tons, 500 tons more than in 1994. The Icelandic coldwater shrimp catch, also, expanded to reach 73 800 tons, 1 000 tons more than in 1994. Though statistics are not yet available, catches by Greenland seem to have expanded by 10 percent to reach 88 000 tons, making Greenland the main producer of Pandalus borealis.
The shortage in shrimp supplies was reflected in lower imports into Japan and the United States. After 1993 and 1994, when Japanese shrimp imports were exceeding 300 000 tons, in 1995 shrimp imports fell back to 293 000 tons. The decline reflected the overall bleak market situation on the Japanese market in 1995, when traders were unwilling to pay the high prices that other shrimp markets were fetching.
United States imports of shrimp in 1995 decreased for the first time after a series of record shrimp imports. In 1995, 270 900 tons of shrimp were imported, 5 percent less than in 1994. Thailand continued to be the main exporter to the US market, but reported lower sales in 1995. On the other hand in 1995, Ecuador managed to ship more shrimp to the US market in 1995 than in 1994.
1995 was a positive year for shrimp sales to Europe, as imports by the major shrimp consuming countries - Spain and Italy - recovered. French shrimp imports also rose to 65 000 tons from the temporary set-back experienced in 1994, although this was well below the peak of 77 000 tons of shrimp imports in 1993.
The opening months of 1996 were characterised by lower output by the main shrimp farms world-wide, leading to less shrimp imports by the United States and Japan. Prices were strong for warmwater shrimp on all major markets. On the other hand, the European market was well supplied with coldwater shrimp from Iceland and Norway, and prices were much lower than a year earlier. Further increases in tropical shrimp prices are forecast for the coming months, when the demand of the Japanese market comes into full swing. Japan is the world's major market for tuna products. Apparent consumption exceeds 1 million tons or nearly 30 percent of world tuna catches. About 70 percent of the Japanese tuna consumption is provided for by domestic production. In 1995, Japanese imports of tuna reached 324 000 tons, up slightly from 1994. Fresh tuna imports, mainly air-freighted into Japan, continued to expand in 1995. Yellowfin accounted for about half of the fresh tuna imports into Japan, and recorded a 10 percent expansion over the 1994 figure. Japanese imports of fresh and frozen Northern bluefin increased in 1995 to reach 8 600 tons, 34 percent more than in 1994.
Canned tuna imports into the United States declined again in 1995 to some 96 500 tons, down from 113 000 tons in 1994, and one of the lowest levels in recent history. The share of canned tuna imports in total supply declined from 37 percent in 1991 to 24 percent in 1995. The United States consumed about 20 percent of the world total tuna catch in 1995 against about 30 percent in the late 1980s. The interesting feature on the US market is the decline of the can size, from 6.5 oz only some years ago to 6 oz at present. The smaller can size might be one of the reasons behind the decline in US tuna consumption. Other reasons include the competition by other food products, the spread of fast-food chains, quality changes in the final product, and the decline in advertising by the main canned tuna producers. The demand for fresh tuna on the US market is minor when compared to canned tuna, but a certain increase over the years can be noted. It is estimated that some 38 000 tons of fresh tuna were consumed in the United States in 1995, up from 36 000 tons in 1994.
While US tuna consumption is declining, a strong increase occurred in Europe in the first half of the 1990s. Spain and France are the top canned tuna consumers in Europe, but also consumption in the United Kingdom has been expanding strongly. The only two major canned tuna consuming countries reporting a decline are Italy and Germany.
The outlook for the US canned tuna market is for a further fall in consumption. The reduction of can sizes is affecting the producer. Any improvement of the US tuna consumption is unlikely, unless there is an increase in advertising. Fresh tuna consumption is forecast to expand slowly over the coming years. By contrast, European canned tuna consumption is forecast to grow even further in coming years, provided the prices remain at their present low levels.
The world cod market was characterised in 1995 by a strong influx of Russian products to Norway, Iceland and Canada for further processing in these countries. In Norway alone, some 100 000 tons of cod were imported from Russia in 1995. As a result, cod prices remained low on both the US and the European market. Alaska pollack, too, was influenced by Russian production. Prices tended upward in the closing months of 1995, but turned around suddenly in February 1996, when large quantities of Russian product reached the US market. The presence of Chilean hake on the European market also depressed cod prices in the course of 1995.
In recent months cod prices have been low on the world market. This reflects the availability of relatively low priced hake and Alaska pollack, which have kept prices low, and weak demand in all major markets.
The 1995 squid season resulted in huge quantities of Lolling squid, while Ilea catches were very disappointing. As a result, prices on the Spanish market, where Ilea is the benchmark, went up significantly. Giant squid from Peru and Mexico managed to establish a market in Europe, where previously the large size of the specimen was considered as a handicap for market development. In 1996, however, these two countries reported a very small catch of Giant squid. Squid prices are expected to decline in the coming months, provided the South-western Atlantic squid season is normal. Octopus prices have normalised after the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco has been signed.
Demand for canned sardine continued to decline in 1995. The EU-Morocco fisheries agreement will eventually have a major impact on world canned sardine trade as Moroccan sardine will enter the EU duty-free from 1999 onward. This will put the EUs canned sardine producers in an unfavourable position. Prices of canned sardines went down in the first half of 1996, but are expected to go up soon.
World imports of prepared and preserved mackerel have steadily increased in recent years. Total figures for 1995 are not yet available, but in 1994 imports totalled 88 211 tons, compared to 53 543 tons in 1993. In particular there is a continuing strong demand for canned mackerel from European countries, in part because of the shortage and rising prices of canned tuna.
Consumption of canned small pelagics has been falling in the past few years. Consumption is stagnant in the EU where these species are regarded as a low-value product and it is doubtful that this trend will be reversed until new attractive products enter the market. Some experiments have taken place with new smoked products, sardine fillets and surimi. Opportunities may be created for producers of canned small pelagics utilising other species such as mackerel, horse mackerel and herring. Canada and the United States for example, have huge stocks of these species, and in their markets canned mackerel and herring are still virtually unknown.
In 1995, record Alaskan and Japanese salmon harvests have coincided with skyrocketing production of farmed salmon. Total world supply thus exceeded more than 1.4 million tons. On the European market, prices declined substantially, especially for Atlantic salmon from Norway. Aquaculture promoted a significant change in the salmon business. With the price development in the past few years, salmon is no longer considered a luxury. Its consumption has increased considerably, as has its market share. At the moment, the salmon market seems to be in the middle of a major expansion, due mainly to the substantial increase of farmed production. Salmon supply is expected to expand further in 1996, Norwegian salmon production alone is predicted to reach 330 000 tons. The industry will have to develop new markets through substantial marketing efforts and technological improvements in order to be able to sell this additional salmon. As wholesale and retail prices are expected to be lower in 1996, consumption is forecast to expand in the Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States. Also in Japan there could be room for more Atlantic salmon, as processors utilise it for "sushi" instead of tuna.
The key to market development will be new value-added products for salmon. Vacuum-packed gift packs of smoked salmon is a profitable way of adding value to smoked salmon. Vacuum-packed salmon steaks are attractive products for the barbecue market in northern Europe.
It would be possible to grow salmon for a lower margin mass market, without pigmentation. The astaxanthin pigment could be omitted from the salmon feed, reducing costs. The resulting salmon would be almost white fleshed fish, and a cheap source of omega-3 fatty acids providing a health benefit compared to other "white" (ground) fishes. This new product would not compete with pink salmon, thus avoiding oversupplies. This "white" salmon could be a substitute for Alaska pollack, presently in short supply, in the production of fish dishes, where the fish can be disguised by sauces and other food ingredients. "White" salmon may be the fish of the future.