From     SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] by John Sackton and Liz Cuozzo – May 16, 2018

Fresh Atlantic halibut is trading at a five year low, and it is affecting prices for Pacific halibut as well, which are also at five year lows.  The last time Pacific Halibut was quoted by Urner Barry below $6.50 for 10-20 lbs. dressed halibut was in 2013.

The primary driver is the loss of much of the East Coast market to Pacific Halibut.  This is because Canadian production continues to increase, and year to date imports of fresh halibut are up 30%, after over 7 million lbs. was imported in 2017.

This has meant that East coast buyers no longer need to buy Pacific Halibut, as Atlantic halibut is plentiful and relatively low priced.

Chart:  prices of East Coast Atlantic halibut are trading at the lowest level in years. Urner Barry.

Pacific Halibut prices have reacted, with fishermen at the dock getting around $5.00 per lb. vs. the $7 dollars that they received a few years ago.

The falling prices have hit frozen pacific halibut as well, leading to some inventory build up for product that was landed last fall.

The Alaskan fishermen are well aware of this situation.  Speaking to KBBI,  Malcom Milne, a Homer-based commercial fisherman, and he said he saw this coming after buyers began to turn away loads of halibut last fall.

“Been a long-time coming I think, and my opinion when we were getting $7 per pound, it was great – great for the crew shares in the boat. But it just didn’t seem like a sustainable price point,” Milne said.

Milne said $5 per pound should still be profitable for most fishermen, and he thinks that price point may get Pacific halibut back on the menu.

“Hopefully we can rebuild some of the markets. I think we probably lost some market share due to substitution,” Milne added. “I know it’s always hard to get back on menus and back in peoples’ minds. Hopefully this will do it.”

But there is often a lag time involved for products removed from restaurant menus due to price.  They don’t come back on right away.  Buyers wait until they regain confidence the price has stabilized and then demand creeps up.”

 

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