Kodiak earn distinction as top halibut port this season

Alaska’s halibut season wrapped up Monday with continued strong prices and 97 percent of the statewide quota of 17.51 million pounds caught by the commercial fleet.

Surprisingly, more than a quarter of the 461,125 pounds left in the water was in Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, where ex-vessel prices ranged between $6 and $7 per pound and fishermen reported the best fishing in many years, with a larger size average.

Another 151,681 uncaught pounds came from the eastern and western Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea combined, and 103,417 pounds came from Area 3B, western Gulf Of Alaska.

Even at the conservative estimate of $6.25 per pound statewide, that comes to $2.9 million left in the water.

In Homer, the price never dropped below $6 per pound, and for a considerable stretch of the spring and summer was as high as $7 to $7.50 per pound.

Much of the halibut left in the water was undoubtedly boats that came within the 10 percent of their quota that they will be able to carry over and catch next season.

Kodiak barely edged out Homer as the top port this season, with Kodiak seeing 2.63 million pounds cross the docks, and Homer coming in at 2.55 million pounds. Seward came in third at 1.91 million pounds.

However, Seward was far and away the leading port for sablefish, or black cod landings, with 4.43 million pounds, compared to second-place Kodiak at 2.76 million pounds.

Sablefish overall saw very poor landings, with only 87 percent of the 20.35 million pound allocation landed coast-wide, including Washington and Oregon. Areas in the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea fared the worst, with the Aleutian Islands landing 29 of their quota and the Bering Sea landing 38 percent.

The Central Gulf landed 96 percent of their allocation, and Southeast caught 100 percent.

Meanwhile, fishermen and processors are anxiously waiting to find out the fate of the halibut fishery in 2017, with rampant speculation about whether the harvestable biomass has stabilized after years of steep decline, and mixed results in 2016 when 3A, central Gulf of Alaska and the largest area in the state, saw another decrease, while other areas remained the same or saw increases, most notably 2C, Southeast Alaska.

Stakeholders will get a pretty good idea at the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s Interim Meeting, which takes place Nov. 29 and 30 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seattle.

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