Lower prices, rising costs pummel Alaska fishermen
Alaska fishermen are feeling the squeeze of lower prices at the same time their operating costs continue to spiral upwards.
For halibut, in a reversal of trend and fortune, prices have dropped by 70 cents a pound in recent weeks. Dock prices usually peak between September and November, when the fishery closes, but that's not the case this year. Overstocked freezers and resistance from buyers have put downward pressure on fish prices.
"Buyers simply aren't buying," said several Alaska fish processors. Before the start of the season in March, processors believed carryover halibut from last year would be sold out by May but that didn't happen. They are still holding the fish in freezers and selling it at a loss. At the same time, the high-end fresh market has fizzled.
Prices at Kodiak were reported at $5, $5.40 and $5.80 a pound, depending on size. At Homer, prices dropped as low as $5.25 but were up slightly to $5.40. Last year's average Alaska halibut price for the season was $6.61 a pound.
Those prices might seem high but they don't offset the reduction of millions of pounds in the overall quota. Pacific halibut catch limits have been reduced by 40 percent in the past two years, resulting in an Alaska take of just 24 million pounds for 2012.
So far, 79 percent of the Alaska halibut catch has been landed; 5 million pounds remains in the limit.