Halibut and black cod fisheries get off to slow start

The halibut and black cod fisheries got underway last weekend, and deliveries have been sparse so far. Prices were comparable to early deliveries for the last couple years, with the first load of halibut delivered in Homer selling for $6.50 straight. There have been no black cod deliveries so far statewide.

As of Tuesday there had been seven deliveries in Area 3A, central Gulf of Alaska, totalling 12,784 pounds, and four deliveries in Area 2C, Southeast, totalling 28,784. No landings were reported in any other areas.

Homer fleet manager for Copper River Seafoods, Jackie Eisenberg, said they bought the load delivered in Homer, and they paid that price because it was the first load and “we had to have it,” but said she expects the price for other early deliveries to settle down at a split price closer to $6 for fish 10-20 pounds, $6.25 for fish 20-40 pounds, and $6.50 for fish over 40 pounds.

In addition to it being the first load, Eisenberg said the fish they bought had a 30-pound average, and it was a small load of about 2,000 pounds.

She added that she knows the boat was offered $5.50 by another buyer in Homer, and the skipper claimed that a buyer in Juneau was paying $7.25, but Eisenberg doubted that it was that high.

Calls and texts to Juneau processors were not returned.

Fishermen are working on reduced quotas across the board, especially in Area 3A, where the quota fell nearly 18% from last year’s quota, with 7.84 million pounds allocated to the commercial fleet. That is down from 11.03 million pounds 10 years ago.

Area 3B, western Gulf of Alaska, had a quota of 4.29 million pounds in 2013, and is facing a catch limit of 3.09 this year, and Area 4B, western Aleutian Islands, is down from 1.16 million pounds in 2013 to 976,000 pounds this year.

Areas 4A, eastern Aleutian Islands, and 4CDE, Bering Sea and Pribilof Islands, are relatively unchanged from 10 years ago, with 4A going from 1.33 million pounds to 1.14 million pounds and 4CDE going from 1.03 million pounds to 1.08 million pounds, although both areas have seen broad fluctuations in the ensuing years, and fishermen have reported smaller fish and more sparse fishing.

Area 2C is actually up from 10 years ago, with a quota of 3.41 million pounds compared to 2.97 million pounds in 2013.

The charter fleet is also facing additional restrictions this year with no fishing on Wednesdays, and also no fishing on Tuesdays between June 20 and Aug. 15, whereas last season there were only two Tuesdays shut down for the season.

The season runs until Dec. 7.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.