Alaska pollock, hake and surimi - July 2015


Pollock prices are very low at the moment, and the outlook is not good, as the TAC has been raised this year.

The NGO Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) recently announced that the global whitefish resource could increase fiercely by 2020 if stocks were properly managed. SFP has calculated that the whitefish resource may grow by 25% to over five million tonnes by 2020. The organization also pointed out that some of the major whitefish fisheries, like the Barents Sea cod fishery, are being well managed and therefore have a chance to improve

Alaska pollock

The Alaska pollock A season opened in January 2015 with a larger quota than compared with 2014. The Bering Sea quota for 2015 is 1.31 million tonnes, 3% higher than in 2014. Less than half of the quota (40%) is allocated to the A season, which will end in early June.

The depreciation of the euro against the dollar has had a major effect on pollock prices, making US pollock more expensive for European buyers. Pollock roe prices are very low at the moment, actually at their lowest levels since the 1990s. In dollar terms, roe prices were 30% below last year, while in Japanese yen, the price was down just 20%. Although many producers are pinning their hopes on the B season now, price increases are unlikely as ample supplies of Alaska pollock are expected for 2015.

The European market for Alaska pollock was mixed in 2014. The largest importer, Germany, increased imports of frozen pollock fillets by 2.4%, from 136 900 tonnes in 2013 to 140 200 tonnes in 2014. The main and almost only suppliers were China (61% of total) and the USA (30% of total).

France, on the other hand, saw a slight decline in imports of frozen Alaska pollock fillets, from 50 900 tonnes in 2013 to 47 000 tonnes in 2014 (-7.7%). China is also the main supplier, accounting for 40% of the total, followed by Russia (22.8%) and the USA (21.3%).

In recent news in the pollock sector, the big are growing bigger. Only a few companies control the north Alaska pollock fishery, and consolidation is continuing on both sides of the Pacific. In Russia, the five largest companies will control 80% of the total Russian quota in 2015-2016, while in the USA, four companies (Trident, Maruha Nichiro, Nissui and American Seafoods) will control 80% of the US quota.


The embargo by Western countries on food exports to Russia has resulted in some shifts in trade patterns, and China seems to have benefited from the situation, emerging as the largest supplier of hake to Russia. In 2014, Chinese hake exports to Russia increased by 182%, while Canadian and US exports of hake to Russia dropped dramatically. North American hake is going through China on its way to Russia, but it is being processed in China so that the country of origin is changed.

At the same time, Argentinean hake is being diverted from the EU to the USA, where demand is very strong. Over the last six months of 2014, Argentinean hake prices increased by 5% as a result of this strong demand. Prices are expected to stay at this level in coming weeks. Argentine exports of hake fillets to Europe are expected to decline while this price situation lasts.

Less frozen hake fillets was imported into the European market in 2014 compared with 2013. Germany had a slight decline in imports, which went from 10 000 tonnes to 9 600 tonnes, while Italy also imported less, from 29 200 tonnes to 25 200 tonnes. For Germany, the main suppliers were Peru and Namibia, while for Italy the main suppliers were the USA, South Africa and Namibia.


There seems to be a shortage of surimi on the market at the moment. Tropical surimi production has declined, and many traders are now looking to Alaska pollock for supplies. However, Alaskan producers are asking for higher prices.

Japan’s imports of Alaska pollock surimi from the USA rose by 17% in 2014 to 110 000 tonnes. In addition, Japan imported over 6 200 tonnes of Alaska pollock surimi from other countries. According to IntraFish, import prices were up by some 12%.

Russia, which has banned imports from major western suppliers, is now having to rely on producers in Asia (Thailand primarily) to supply surimi to the Russian market. In Japan, surimi inventories are low, and diminishing. Thus, price increases for surimi are likely.


Haddock prices have been high for some time, but fluctuations in currency exchange rates have caused some shifts. According to Undercurrent News, the market reacted to the 37% reduction in TAC which was set by Russia and Norway for 2013. Since then, the TAC has been reduced further to 178 500 in 2014 and 2015. The depreciation of the Norwegian krone as well as the Russian ruble against the US dollar then pushed prices down and haddock is now just above the price of cod.

For Russian pollock, the Russian authorities are taking steps to keep as much fish as possible for the domestic market due to the import ban. This development has led to talk about dropping the preferential tax breaks for exporting, thus making Russian pollock more expensive on world markets.


Overall, supplies will remain more or less at the same levels as 2014. It is expected that Alaska pollock supplies will increase somewhat. Although a number of the major groundfish suppliers are affected by the Russian import ban, global trade in groundfish species will only be marginally affected.

Foreign exchange fluctuations will affect trade as it is expected that the Norwegian krone will strengthen from its current weak position, and the weak ruble is making Russian groundfish easier to sell. 

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