As with other “premium” seafoods, halibut is seeing sustained high prices for fishermen as customer demand remains strong.
Halibut prices usually start off high when the fishery opens in early March and then drop significantly, especially during salmon season. But that’s not the case this year and dock prices remain at over $6 and topping $7 per pound at major ports.
The word that describes current inventories is “short” for fresh fish, says Rochelle Reierson of global supplier Tradex –
“As mid-August saw the crossover of the harvest passing 50 percent of the fishery limit, it also saw the transition of some processors making the switch from fresh to frozen production. Make no mistake, though, that the fresh market is still extremely strong and as consumer demand continues to drain any available inventories – supply is inevitably short and prices continue their upward trend. For frozen inventories, we should start to see some offers of 1x frozen Alaskan Halibut in headed and gutted and fletches in Seattle some time over the next few weeks.”
The total commercial catch for Pacific halibut this year was set at 25.7 million pounds for the U.S. and British Columbia.
Alaska always gets the largest share and this year’s catch was set at just under 19 million pounds, with all regions except for the Bering Sea getting increased catches.
About 70% of the Alaska halibut has been landed so far with most crossing the docks at Homer, Seward, Kodiak and Juneau.
Retail prices for fresh halibut were all over the place with Whole Foods and Kroger stores featuring fillets at $23.66 a pound. 10th and M in Anchorage has fillets on its shelves at $27.95 and at $37.99 a pound at Pike Place Market in Seattle.
Alaska and West Coast catches aren’t satisfying consumer appetites for halibut. Trade data show that so far this year the U.S. has imported 10.3 million pounds of Atlantic halibut from Eastern Canada valued at nearly $77 million.
The Pacific halibut season for this year was extended by one month running from March 6 to December 7.
Stakeholders will get a first glimpse at what next year’s halibut catches could be at the interim meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission which will be held remotely on November 30 and December 1.
Final decisions will be made during the IPHC annual meeting on Jan. 24 to 28.