Community Development Recommendation 3
White Sturgeon Marketing
White sturgeon are sold to wholesale buyers and directly to the public. Sturgeon are required to be sold in the round (uncleaned) to ensure compliance with length limits and to provide detailed growth information.
In 2009 the Salmon Marketing Program looked at ways to increase the value of tribally caught salmon and other fish and the factors that affect prices. It found that 2009 sturgeon prices were generally between $1.50 and $2.00 per pound in the round. By 2011-12, the price increased to $2.50 per pound, sometimes reaching as high $3.00 per pound. The increase is due in part to competition, market dynamics, reduced catch rates from non-tribal fisheries, and a more positive image of tribally caught fish in the marketplace.
Even though most sturgeon entering markets are farm raised, wild sturgeon from the Columbia River command significant interest, which is often reflected in a higher price per pound than the price paid for farm-raised fish. This higher price and awareness that the fish are sustainably harvested are key elements in the development of a marketing plan.
Several factors, however, complicate sturgeon marketing efforts. First is a fish health advisory to limit consumption of sturgeon caught in Zone 6 (Bonneville to McNary dams). This new health advisory will have unknown effects on the ability to market tribally caught sturgeon. Second is the likely termination of the non-tribal lower river sturgeon fishery after 2013. The end of this commercial fishery may reduce the number of processors interested in handling sturgeon. Third is the requirement to sell sturgeon in the round, which limits the number of buyers. Not all processors are set up to process whole sturgeon; yet there are buyers and distributors who would purchase headed and gutted sturgeon.
The following actions are needed to strengthen sturgeon marketing efforts.
- Incorporate best handling practices in the tribal sturgeon harvest.
- Continue to promote the purchase of tribally caught fish, including wild sturgeon, in the commercial marketplace and to the public.
- Maintain positive market visibility for tribally caught salmon, sturgeon, and other fish.
- With Tribal FishCo, explore processing sturgeon for secondary markets.
- Investigate using hatchery sturgeon reared to market size to maintain and expand fresh markets for wild sturgeon.
- Work to decrease toxic contamination in the mainstem so the fish health advisory can be lifted. (See the update of the technical recommendation Water Quality.)
These actions will increase the value and maintain the market pricing of tribally caught sturgeon.