The halibut season closed last week under stormy skies with a handful of boats making it into Homer harbor just under the wire for the noon closure on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
The flurry of activity was in contrast to previous weeks which often saw two to four deliveries, few buyers and a price that had dropped to the $5 to $5.50 per pound range. Fishing rebounded slightly at the very end, similar to last season, ending up around $6 per pound.
Prices never did reach the highs of last season, which saw some buyers paying up to $7.50 per pound, partly due to managers in eastern Canadian waters setting a 7-million-pound quota which made it harder for buyers in Alaska to compete in lucrative East Coast markets, and partly due to substantial inventory in freezers in Japan and elsewhere.
Last winter the two countries represented by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, Canada and the U.S., could not come to an agreement over quotas, with Canada objecting to proposed cuts on what they viewed as improving stocks, while U.S. commissioners saw a lack of smaller fish growing into harvestable size and the continued trend of fish growing at reduced rates, or size at age, as signs that the quotas needed to go down.
For only the second time in 94 years, each country set its own quotas, with quotas for Alaska waters going down by 1.7 million pounds, half the reduction biologists were recommending.
The IPHC will hold its interim meeting Nov. 27 and 28 in Seattle, at which time they will explain the results of the summer longline and trawl surveys and make catch recommendations.
One casualty of the fraught market and stock uncertainty has been the sale price of halibut Individual Fishing Quotas. Depending upon the area, prices are down between 20 and 40 percent, dropping from highs as much as $70 per pound down to $50 to $55 per pound.
Homer once again lost its usual place at the top of the list for halibut deliveries by poundage, beat last year by Kodiak and this year by Seward. The three ports were close, with Seward landing 2.32 million pounds, Homer landing 2.26 million and Kodiak 2.16 million. Kodiak saw a much larger chunk of the quota delivered there last season with 3.26 million pounds, compared with 2.09 million pounds in Seward and 2.03 million pounds in Homer.
Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.