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Off the Beach, Into the Distribution System

20 cases move from the plant ... 20 cases move from the plant to the plane... ...carefully loaded one case at ... ...carefully loaded one case at a time... ...wind directi... ...wind direction? "CHECK"…
Ping! "Another 20 cases off the beach."

When the Bristol Bay season begins at our Coffee Point Seafoods plant on the Egegik River, the emails to the Sales Team in Seattle, come fast and furiously. Small prop planes land on the beach outside the plant to start another 20 cases of fresh sockeye into a well-oiled distribution system that will ultimately end up on consumers' plates in the lower 48. The process occurs multiple times each day in concert with our partners at Coastal Air and King Air.

Through mid-June we have shipped approximately 50,000 lbs. fresh off the beach and more coming.

Ping! "Another 20 cases off the beach."

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Resurrection Bay Sockeye

The yellow circle marks Resu... The yellow circle marks Resurrection Bay, outside of Seward and across the peninsula from our main plant in Kenai. First fruits of the year. First fruits of the year. Sockeye seeking their spawnin... Sockeye seeking their spawning grounds in Bear Creek.
Each year, the Alaska sockeye salmon season starts off with a lot of hoopla about Copper River. Prices were again ridiculously high this year. Generally the second opening is in Resurrection Bay, one of the fjords on the Kenai Peninsula. Named to commemorate the survival of Alexander Baranov during a brutal storm that broke on Easter Sunday, it is also where some of the season's first fresh sockeye are pulled from the water to make it to the lower 48 – at considerably more reasonable prices.

Call your E&E sales rep for details.

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E&E Foods' Set Netter Husband-Wife Team Chronicles Their Lives Catching Salmon

One of the reasons for the success of E & E Foods' operations in Alaska is our partnership with many courageous set-netters. These intrepid fishermen fight the weather and the unpredictable timing of salmon runs to consistently deliver Bristol Bay sockeye to our floating processor, P/V Cape Greig.

The link below takes you to an Alaska Magazine article that offers a glimpse into the lives of one such set-net team that fishes for E&E on the Ugashik River.

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Yakutat Plant Get Props From Alaska Airlines

E & E Foods' subsidiary, Yakutat Seafoods, supplies a significant amount of fresh, wild, halibut to the lower 48 using Alaska Airlines extensive network. Click on the link below (scroll down past the geoduck article) for an extensive article on Yakutat and Greg Indreland, the plant manager.

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From Land to Water

The Swift Arrow makes the tri... The Swift Arrow makes the trip from one of E&E's riverside storage yards to the river. After being rolled into the slip... After being rolled into the slip by the travelift, the boat is gently lowered into the water.
Each season salmon fishing boats are resurrected from “parking lots” – we have five such lots for boats that fish for us – all across the Alaskan coasts for the short journey to the water. E&E stores 150 boats in our storage yards during the off season. As the season approaches, the boats are either trailered by trucks to boat landings the conventional way or lowered into the water using “travelifts.”

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Flying Sockeyes From Bristol Bay

Lynden Air Cargo's Hercules ... Lynden Air Cargo's Hercules comes to a rest in Kenai. A forklift takes the chartered ... A forklift takes the chartered cargo quickly off the rear of the plane. More beautiful sockeye for pro... More beautiful sockeye for processing at Pacific Star.
Time and temperature are the "twin scourges" of fresh fish. Too much of either diminishes the quality and eventually, the usefulness. The ability to get fish out of the water and quickly headed to consumers requires an effective operational plan and lots of equipment. We work with a number of freight companies to keep the sockeyes moving fast and cold. Yesterday’s post highlighted our first shipment using Everts Air Cargo’s MD-80 to ferry 35,000 lbs. of iced and toted sockeye from King Salmon to Kenai. It took only 23 minutes to unload at Kenai Airport and then just minutes more to deliver to our plant – barely a mile away – and right into production. Today, it’s Lynden Air Cargo’s Hercules and its 40,000 lb. capacity doing the heavy lifting. We plan to keep these two air freight companies busy this year!

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Fresh From Alaska, Part 2

Loading in King Salmon and he... Loading in King Salmon and headed for Kenai... ...met at the airport in Kenai b... ...met at the airport in Kenai by Pac Star's truck... ...ready for unloading in Kenai... ...ready for unloading in Kenai... ...fresh toted sockeye from the... ...fresh toted sockeye from the Bay... ...loaded onto Pac Star's truck... ...loaded onto Pac Star's truck for the short trip to the Kenai plant... ...beautiful, ocean run, fresh, s... ...beautiful, ocean run, fresh, sockeye on ice...
The growing number of Alaska packers under the Canfisco banner – like E&E Foods – creates increasing operational efficiencies. One of these is the ability to consolidate fresh Bristol Bay sockeye salmon caught in the Naknek, Kvichak and Egegik Rivers and purchased by the group’s affiliates Alaska General, Leader Creek, Big Creek and E&E Foods. These fish are air-freighted the same day to E&E’s Kenai Pacific Star plant for processing before being shipped fresh by air or team-driven truck via Anchorage to the Lower 48.

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Fresh From Alaska

Greg knows fish! Greg knows fish!
One of the benefits of working at E&E is when visitors from Alaska come bearing gifts. In this case, Greg Indreland, who runs our Yakutat plant and fishes for us, showed off his culinary skills in our Renton kitchen on a fresh King salmon from Yakutat. WOW!!

We sell these babies across America in case you're interested.

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E&E in Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay, home to the world... Bristol Bay, home to the world's best managed, sustainable fishery. Some of E&E's areas of operations are highlighted in yellow. Forecast harves... Forecast harvest versus actual harvest since 2015. Once escapement goals are met, more fish can be caught – a sign of a well-managed fishery.
The beginning of the salmon season in Alaska is heralded in mid-May by the much-acclaimed, first opener of Copper River for kings and sockeyes. The media fan-fare with the transfer of the river’s “first fruits” to a waiting Alaska Airlines jet makes for great theater, but it’s just the first step in a months-long series of openers across Alaska that encompass all species – king, sockeye, coho, chum and pinks. Despite the hoopla and high prices of Copper River’s sockeye, the sockeye harvest everyone focuses on is that of Bristol Bay.

The Bay’s nine river systems are home to the world’s largest sockeye harvest (and 75% of all harvested sockeye in Alaska). The season gets going in June, builds through July, and – sometimes – sneaks into August. Bristol Bay has seen robust salmon runs recently, with actual numbers of fish caught exceeding forecasts every year since 2016. The catch forecast for 2021 is just under 35mn fish, against a run forecast of 50mn, the difference being the escapement necessary to seed the populations of future runs. It looks to be another banner and sustainable year.

E&E and its related affiliates have access to the Bay’s resources through mainly the Ugashik and Egegik Rivers on the western shores of the Alaska Peninsula. The catch forecast for the two combined rivers is nearly 15mn, with Egegik making up more than 9mn fish. The number is about the same as 2020’s actual catch, but more balanced than last year’s harvest that was 84% from Egegik.

We have the only floating processor in the area, the Cape Greig, that services the fishermen in the Ugashik River. The Coffee Point Seafoods and Big Creek plants – which sit next to each other on the beach – support the Egegik River harvest. Big Creek is a new addition to the group this year and will add to our sockeye production.

Although these two rivers don’t experience the volume of sockeye that the plants farther north in Naknek do, the Ugashik and Egegik fish quality tends to be better. This is because these sockeyes don’t experience the same chaotic, concentrated crush of fish that gets funneled into the narrower part of the Bay sometimes at the height of the run.

Contact your sales rep for your sockeye!

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E&E's Salmon Ikura Outlook

E&E's Salmon Ikura Outlook
The chum and pink salmon runs for Cook Inlet (and Kotzebue Sound for chums) don’t start in earnest until mid-July. Ikura (often called "salmon caviar") processing at our Pacific Star plant follows closely behind and in a normal year, most of our production happens in August, with shipments to Seattle occurring as we fill containers. We anticipate this year to be similar to last year in terms of timing.

Although PacStar’s total ikura production volume the past two years has essentially been the same, we believe this year’s output might be higher for a couple of reasons:

• First, although actual catch figures have declined the last few years for both pink and chum salmon, the state surveys and biologists’ assessments forecast runs to be higher this year.

Pink salmon runs on a two-year cycle, with odd-years in Alaska being the “on-year” when harvests are normally robust.

This year’s all-Alaska forecast for pinks is 124mn fish, twice as much as 2020’s forecast of 60mn (versus actual of 58mn fish) and similar to 2019’s 139mn forecast (129mn actual). However, most pinks will be in Southeast and Prince William Sound, two areas we don’t generally source from, though their existence will likely affect the market.

The 2021 pink salmon forecast for Cook Inlet is 2.8mn fish, close to 2020’s actual catch on a forecast of 3.4mn fish.

For reference, 2019’s Cook Inlet forecast was 3.5mn fish, as opposed to the actual catch of 2.1mn pinks.

Obviously, we don’t get all the fish in any area, though we are a major player in Cook Inlet.

Chum salmon runs follow a less predictable pattern and harvests the past two years have been both considerably under forecasts and poor. This year could be more of the same, though given how poor last year’s harvest was, there is nowhere to go but up…right?

2019 all-Alaska forecasted catch was 29mn (260,000 in Cook Inlet, 2.2mn in Kotzebue’s AYK area) and the actual catch was 20mn fish (184,000, 1mn).

2020’s all-Alaska forecast was about 20mn fish (256,000 fish in Cook Inlet, 2mn in AYK); actual catch was 8mn fish (39,000 fish – not a typo – and 190,000 fish, though some of the AYK fish were caught in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River systems).

2021 sees a further decline in the forecast to 15mn fish (161,000 fish in Cook Inlet and 570,000 in AYK).

• Second, we have more fishermen fishing for us – likely leading to more fish even if the catch numbers decline. In addition, as part of the growing Canfisco organization, E&E may also have access to additional raw material from other Canfisco affiliates. These are both positive developments that are unrelated to the run.

• Industry-wide, we’ve also heard talk that some of the major packers are cutting back on finished product because of labor shortages and freezing eggs as green roe instead.

• Ultimately, production is largely determined by the actual catch and until we see that, forecasts are just forecasts.

While production the past two years has been similar, the sales pattern has been very different. It took us almost twelve-months to sell all our inventory in 2019, but last year we were sold out by December. Since then, we have also had many inquiries from existing and new customers asking if we had anything left to sell, so there still seems to be robust demand. This is the big wild-card this year – demand.

Some of the growth in demand was due to a growing customer base, some due to changes in consumption patterns brought on by COVID, and some due to better overall production quality. We added some new machinery to increase output and some adjustments we plan on making to the process should lead to drier ikura. Our pack size remains a 500g tray, with 24 trays per master case; the salt target remains at 2.5%. Yet, a lot of the production quality depends on how concentrated the run is and on how fresh the fish are. We have little control over how many fish show up at each opener and do our best to deal with every surge of fish as carefully and efficiently as possible. As far as freshness goes, we work with our fishermen and our production crew to maintain the highest quality possible.

The final element related to demand is price. Though PacStar ikura is less well-known than Trident, Ocean Beauty and Peter Pan’s, the premium those name brands have been able charge is shrinking each year – and not because their prices are going down! Coupled with the fact the market is very short at both the packer and distributor level, if demand stays strong, we expect prices will be firmer this year and anticipate our pink ikura priced at $18-$20 per lb. and chum ikura priced at $25-$28. Of course, these are just preliminary indicative prices and are subject to catch, production, timing of the run, quality and size of the eggs, and a host of other variables.

In short, we expect pinks and chums to show up on time, in hopefully greater volumes, from which we will endeavor to produce dry ikura at modest salt levels, have much of it sold as soon as possible, and at prices that make sense for both of us.

Let us know your needs for the year.

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