By Christine Blank, SeafoodSource contributing editor
Published on Thursday, January 16 2014
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has reduced the total allowable catch limits for Pacific halibut by 18 percent to 27.52 million pounds (compared to 33.5 million pounds TAC in 2013).
Commission members have been reviewing data at its annual meeting in Seattle this week and will soon announce its decision on quotas for the 2014 season — which starts in about two months. Preliminary catch limits discussed at IPHC’s interim meeting last fall called for a reported 21 percent drop in Alaskan halibut catch.
Under the preliminary “blue-line” catch limits discussed at the IPHC’s interim meeting in fall 2013, coastwide total removals would be about 36.4 million pounds, with a commercial halibut harvest of about 24.5 million pounds for 2014, Alaska Journal of Commerce reported.
That could mean about 18.74 million pounds of halibut for Alaska, down from about 22 million pounds in 2013.
“That’s a big cut. If it goes through, and prices go up too much more, we may seen even fewer people listing it [fresh halibut] this year,” Kevin Bradley, director of Asia Operations for distributor Tradex Foods in Victoria, British Columbia, told SeafoodSource.
Already, North American distributors report higher prices on halibut over the past few weeks, as frozen supplies tighten and the impending 2014 quota announcement. “Frozen prices have been on the upswing for the past eight weeks,” Bradley said. Six to eight weeks ago, prices were in the high USD 5 per pound range for 10 to 20 pound fish and have now jumped to around USD 7.10 per pound for 10 to 20 pound fish.
“Prices are expected to be strong early in the 2014 season, as supply of 2013 processed halibut is very limited. Supply of halibut has tightened considerably on all sizes, especially 10 to 20 pounds and 20 to 40 pounds,” said Rob Reierson, Tradex CEO.
Thanks to higher pricing and demand, more buyers are looking for frozen halibut processed in China and Russia, according to Bradley.
“The Chinese processed, value-added market from Russian halibut is growing, and Russia is also a large producer of halibut. Trade with Russia has been on the upswing.”
As a result, the Alaskan halibut fishery may supply predominantly the fresh market in the near future, while China and Russia will supply more frozen product to global buyers, Bradley predicted.