Alaska’s sablefish and halibut season starts with big hauls, low prices

The Alaska sablefish and halibut season got off to a successful start in terms of volume, but less so in terms of sales price, according to a Homer News report.

The commercial halibut season began on 15 March and the sablefish season in the state got underway the day before.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) figures revealed that during the first week of the season, 332,478 pounds of halibut were harvested compared to 258,227 pounds last year. Sablefish landings were recorded by NOAA at more than 800,000 pounds, compared to 168,100 pounds last year.

During the first days of the season, a halibut boat was paid USD 5.00 (EUR 4.57) per pound, but later in the week, prices dropped to around USD 3.25 (EUR 2.97) for fish ranging from 10 to 20 pounds and USD 4.40 (EUR 4.02) for fish on the larger side – meaning more than 40 pounds.

At the beginning of last season, halibut was commanding USD 6.50 (EUR 5.94) and averaged out at USD 5.30 (EUR 4.85).

Sablefish was fetching USD 0.30 (EUR 0.27) per pound for fish under two pounds and USD 7.00 (EUR 6.40) per pound for fish more than seven pounds, which is a dollar less per pound than last season. 

According to National Fisherman, buyers said they would postpone buying fish until the state’s ferry system, which has been shut down due to the coronavirus crisis, is up and running again.

“We are tentatively going to be buying longline fish on the first of May, after the Columbia ferry gets back on line,” one buyer said.

Alaskan halibut is also facing new challenges with Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada, farmed halibut from Norway, and Russian Pacific halibut coming on the market, a representative of a major Alaskan halibut sales group told National Fisherman.

“One of our salespeople shot us a deal showing that right now you can buy frozen-at-sea, tail off, 3-to-5 and 5-to-8 pound Pacific halibut from Russia for USD 3.25 [EUR 2.97] per pound.”

Photo courtesy of Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock


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