Limited availability, high demand send seafood prices skyrocketing

Food costs are going up by the day. We’re seeing beef going up, fish going up, dairy, protein and vegetables, everything is more expensive. Canada’s food price report forecasts food prices to go up to 5% this year, after rising three per cent in 2020. B.C.’s consumer price index was 2.7 per cent in May 2021 over May 2020. Food alone in B.C. was up 1.7 per cent in May 2021 over May 2020. Canadian Should expect Seafood and vegetables to increase in prices by 6-10% combined and meat by 4.5-6.5% in 2021.

BC will be the only province in Canada to suffer an above-average increase in both 2019 and 2020. Fish and seafood will become even more popular with Canadians, but most of it will be imported. The price of fish rose 5% in 2019 led by a 23% leap in the price of Salmon. That situation is unlikely to improve. Demand for meat is dropping in Canada and nowhere more so than in BC. Where around 12% of the population is Vegan or Vegetarian. A recent survey found that nearly 40% of British Columbian's under the age of 35 follow a meat-free diet. Until recently, most people would adopt a meat-free diet as young adults, but teens are increasingly making the switch in junior high school or even earlier.

B.C. seafood price projected to rise as ocean conditions change. Prices for fresh local seafood will rise dramatically as catches decline over the next few decades, according to a report by researchers at the UBC. The price of Sockeye salmon could rise by 70 per cent as the fishery is projected to decline by as much as 21 per cent by 2050 due to changes in water movement and chemistry of the oceans brought about by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to Out of Stock, a report commissioned by Vancity.

Prices for Sockeye, Chum, Halibut, Tuna and Sablefish from B.C. waters are likely to rise the most. Statistics Canada data shows that retail fish prices have already increased 38 per cent over the past five years. Using recent climate data, computer models project that seven of 10 top staple fish will decline in biomass over that period, said lead author Rashid Sumaila of UBC’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit. “We model scenarios based on carbon dioxide emissions and what effect that will have on temperature and ocean chemistry then we can predict what effect that will have on the biomass,” he said. The model is constantly updated with the most recent climate and biomass data, so the researchers can calculate trends based on what is already happening in the environment. “Each of these fishes has a range of temperatures where they feel comfortable,” he said. “As the fish chase cooler temperatures their normal (geographic) range changes or they perish.”

Economic models based on supply ­both in B.C. and from top trading partners — and other market conditions project that B.C. families will spend between $30 million and $110 million more for seafood each year in 2050. The report recommends that all levels of government and citizens work to reduce CO2 emissions in order to prevent the most dire and potentially irreversible effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

A post-Covid-19 economic inflationary surge has seafood places rewriting their menus lobsters, scallops, crab and many fish dishes. Prices have risen by as much as 50 percent in the last quarter due to a lack of fishers and truck drivers combined with climbing consumer demand, reports Christine Blank of Overall, the wholesale price of finfish and shellfish rose 18.8 percent from June 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports Will Feuer of the New York Post. Halibut soared from $16 a pound to $28, while blue crab skyrocketed from $18 to $44 — an increase of more than 140 percent.

The jump in seafood prices is part of broader inflationary increase working its way through the economy as the United States continues to emerge from the pandemic. However, the seafood surge is also related to an employment shortage, port congestion, lack of product, rising prices and transportation issues. The root cause is a lack of workers in the fishing industry. Many left the industry at the peak of the pandemic when demand was low and they don’t appear to be returning to work anytime soon. A perfect storm of high demand clashing with supply chain issues, worker shortage and delivery problems is forcing to raise seafood prices. The shift away from single use plastic will likely drive up the cost even further, as alternative packaging are typically more expensive. Shipping costs have skyrocketed because fuel has gone up and also businesses have to spent on permanent fixtures, barriers, PPE and other related costs for COVID. Staffing was a challenge before the pandemic hit in 2020 and finding enough staff is going to be a struggle this year as well.