Salmon prices could double as parasitic sea lice ravage global supply

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Alarming: wholesale prices rose by as much as 50% in 2016
Alarming: wholesale prices rose by as much as 50% in 2016
Salmon prices are expected to reach new highs thanks to bloodsucking parasites affecting fish stocks. 

Wholesale prices have already risen by as much as 50% during the past year while global supplies fell almost 9%.   

This is down to an explosion of the parasitic sea lice Lepeophtheirus Salmonis, which feeds on the blood of salmon, damaging the fish’s fins and skin and spreading disease.

Experts have largely attributed the rise in numbers of sea lice on fish to global warming, as rising water temperatures make swathes of ocean more habitable.

Reserves run out

Antony Shirley, executive chef at Lancashire-based Seafood Pub Company, which specialises in fish and seafood, said: “[The price rise] has just come through to us, but obviously as people’s reserves have run out, they’re all starting to buy stocks from home. We’ve really just seen the increase over the past two weeks.”

Global salmon stocks were already at worryingly low levels before the outbreak of parasites, having been severely damaged by a toxic algae bloom in Chile in early 2016 that killed millions of fish.

Price hike

Shirley added: “Salmon isn’t a massive seller for us so, at the moment, we’re not passing the cost on to the customer – we’ve tweaked a few dishes to accommodate for it but we’re not passing it on to the punter. I don’t think you can pass on every price hike all the time.”

For operators looking to minimise the effect of price rises on their businesses, he recommended looking for alternatives such as sea trout and make sure – if chefs are working with whole salmon – all the fish’s by-products get put to use.

“We don’t think it will increase further at the minute – or at least we hope so. But all food prices are quite volatile with everything that’s going on,” he said.

Related topics: Food trends

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