HIgh prices for halibut quota shares that one year ago were in the nose bleed area have now taken a nose dive.

“Negative news about recruitment into the fishery and some more negative news about lower ex vessel prices – that was enough to turn that IFQ market downward and it’s played out.”

Doug Bowen runs Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.

Quota shares in Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, that for several years topped $70 per pound are now 20 to 25 percent less, in the $48 to $59 per pound range.

For the Central Gulf, Area 3A, halibut shares have dropped 30 to 40 percent to $40 to $50 per pound.

The value for halibut quota in the Western Gulf, Area 3B, is down by 50 percent to under $30 dollars.

Last year’s summer surveys showed a lack of young halibut recruiting into the fishery and managers pushed for drastic cuts to protect the stocks.

“That caught a lot of folks flat footed. They did not see that coming. A lot of fishermen were seeing better production, larger and healthier looking fish. The biologists weren’t arguing that point, they just said they weren’t seeing anything behind it, anything coming into the fishery.”

Last fall, halibut prices also dropped by $2 a pound at the docks and boats sometimes couldn’t even find buyers for their fish.

Another whammy came from 7 million pounds of cheaper Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada displacing Alaska’s fish in U.S. markets.

“It definitely put a damper on the market for IFQs and that lack of confidence in the resource and concern about exvessel prices were confirmed at the March opener this year when dock prices were about $5 a pound up and down the coast. That contrast sharply with 2017 dock prices of $7/lb.” 

For this year’s halibut fishery, managers only took half of the cuts their biologists recommended, and Bowen says that doesn’t bode well for 2019.

 “There is ongoing concern – are they going to cut the catch limits again? There are some stiff headwinds with the halibut IFQ market for sure.”

The Pacific halibut fishery closes on November 7.

The industry will get its first look at potential catches for next year at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting set for Nov. 27-28 in Seattle.

Tomorrow we’ll look at trends in salmon permits.

                    Nov. 18-20, Seattle

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