Salmon Season Begins Despite Drop In Demand

Wild local salmon is back in fish markets, and with restaurants closed it could be a banner year for consumers.

“I think there’s going to be some very good deals to be had,” says John McManus, president of the Golden State Salmon Association. Most of the early salmon in a normal year would go to restaurants, but with the ongoing shelter in place order demand has dropped considerably.

“The prices being paid this year to the fishermen are lower than they were in the last several because of the loss of that restaurant market,” McManus explains. “I think a lot of fishermen are getting creative to try and develop or find markets for their fish.”

Prized coho or king salmon is already showing up in fish markets and could show up at the supermarket any day now. Markets have shifted their business models with an increased focus on selling directly to consumers. 

“Right now it’s really important to support our local fishermen and keep them fishing,” says Anna Svedise of the fish market Anna’s Seafood in Petaluma. She launched an online store with delivery within 50 miles during the pandemic to accommodate shifting customer demand. “They’re really economical in cost… you could get a good 25 portions for $100; wild king salmon, local caught.”

But customers looking to buy salmon directly from the fishermen may need to rethink their plans. Pillar Point Harbor, which is usually bustling with dockside sales, has been closed due to the pandemic.

Conflicting signs at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay, which has closed due to coronavirus
Tim Ryan/KCBS Radio

“Off the boat sales are usually a big part of the income for fishermen who fish out of Half Moon Bay,” says McManus. The GSSA has a list on its website of markets that are still open for pick-up or delivery.