Gutting halibut

 

Prices for halibut are sinking like a stone as the season’s first fresh fish cross the Alaska docks.  The fishery opened on March 24.

Traditionally, the first landings fetch the highest prices and then drop as the market settles out.

That’s not the case this year.

Prices at $4.50 to $5 a pound at major ports are $2 or so lower than fishermen have been accustomed to receiving over the past few years.

Kodiak, for example, was paying $4.50 on Tuesday, and likely to drop a bit. Seward prices were reported at $4.50-$4.75-5.00. Yakutat was paying the highest at $5.25 across the board.

Just over 100,000 pounds of halibut crossed the docks so far from 35 deliveries.

Push back to Pacific halibut prices that have been escalating over several years began last October.

It was bad enough to force some Alaska buyers to turn away deliveries, or only buy from their long term boats.

Adding to the market snub – reports of 7 to 10 million of pounds of fresh and close by Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada.

The flood of Canadian fish has taken over a big portion of Alaska’s market share on the eastern seaboard and is already making inroads in the west.  The Canadian halibut fishery operates year round, compared to Alaska’s eight-month opener.

Another headwind for Alaska fishermen as the halibut season gets underway – reports of hefty hold-overs of halibut in the freezers from last season.

A fleet of about 2,000 Alaskans fish commercially for halibut which was valued at $112 million at the docks last year.

The average price paid to Alaska fishermen in 2017  was $6.32 per pound, a 35-cent decrease from 2016, according to NOAA Fisheries in Juneau

he Alaska halibut catch limit this year is 17.5 million pounds. The  fishery runs through November 7.     

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