Pacific halibut fishing regions
The Pacific halibut fishery starts Friday/March 15 with more fish to catch and favorable market conditions.
The coastwide catch limit from California to the Bering Sea is just under 30 million pounds, an 8.2 percent increase over 2018.
Alaska’s share of the halibut catch is 22 million pounds, up a million and a half pounds, with increases in all fishing areas except the Western Gulf.
Southeast Alaska’s catch was boosted by just over 1 percent to 3.6 million pounds; the Central Gulf got a nearly nine percent increase to 10.26 million pounds. The Western Gulf halibut catch was set at 2.3 million pounds, a drop of over 11 percent.
For Area 4A along the Aleutians, a catch of 1.65 million pounds is up more than 20 percent. The 4B region catch of 1.21 million pounds is a 15 percent increase.
The Bering Sea regions, Areas 4CDE, saw the biggest jump to 2.04 million pounds, a nearly 30percent increase.
Market conditions are more favorable this year, due mostly to fewer fish in the freezers.
SeafoodNews.com reports that less carry over going into the new season has renewed interest in halibut, especially during Lent which runs until April 20.
Last year buyers pulled back on halibut purchases after years of high prices and a sudden flood of cheaper fish from eastern Canada sucked the wind out of the Pacific market in 2017.
The Canadian fishery, which operates year round, has recently been putting up to 11 million pounds of halibut into US markets.
Starting prices to Alaska fishermen last year were in the $4 to $5 range, down $2 on average from previous years. Prices ticked upwards during the season but never reached the levels of a few years ago.
Carl Greene is Cost Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries in Juneau.
“The value of the halibut fishery was down 24 percent year over year. Decreases were mainly attributed to lower dock prices with average halibut prices of $5.35 per pound down from $6.32 during 2017.”
Roughly 2,000 Alaska longliners hold quota shares of halibut, which they can fish through November 14.