Prices for halibut quota shares remain in the nosebleed area but they are not going any higher, at least for now.
“The price is still very high, but seems to have stabilized somewhat in high ranges. Seventy some dollars a pound in Southeast, $60 in 3A and in the $40’s in 3B and the values stair step down as you move farther west.”
Doug Bowen operates Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. He says it’s likely that recent drops in halibut prices at the docks have slowed the upward trend for quota shares.
“The past few months the price has continued to decline and there have been times in Homer when clients have brought loads of halibut in and couldn’t find anyone to buy them.”
Halibut prices started out in the $7 per pound range since the season opener in March at most major ports coast wide and have dropped into the $5 range most recently.
But with buyers resisting the extended high prices for halibut at the docks and at retail, it’s having an effect on the quota share market.
“But when they actually don’t care if you turn that boat around and drive away then you have to start taking them seriously that there are issues in the marketplace and they can’t see their way clear to make any money on those fish and they don’t want to buy them and put them in the freezer. And that’s kind of what we’re seeing this fall.”
Fingers point to up to 12 million pounds of cheaper Atlantic halibut entering the market this fall, but it’s tough go get data on exactly how much or if it’s coming from the east coast, Canada or Iceland.
Still, proximity gives the fish a leg up in the market.
“They are much closer to the east coast market and it costs them a whole heck of a lot less money to get their product to those high end markets than it does to get ours all the way from Alaska. So it’s not just more product but it’s a lot lower cost to buyers on the east coast.”
Next month halibut holders in the Pacific will get a first glimpse of potential catches for 2018 and Bowen says that usually causes a quota share blip up or down.
“If the survey results come out and it’s really strong for one area or another you’ll definitely see some folks trying to buy into that area to try to get out ahead of anticipated price increases because of the good news coming out of that area.”
There’s never a peep pre-season on what the annual surveys indicate.
“What I do hear is from folks fishing out there on the grounds everyday and it seems like Soputheast halibut fishermen are still having good fishing. We hear good fishing out of 3B and 3A is sort of a mixed bag. I don’t hear anybody complaining about the fishing.”
The halibut survey results will be revealed at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting Nov. 28-29 in Seattle.