Even with lots of fish, halibut prices high

A mini-price war on the Homer docks turned out to be a boon for a small handful of halibut fishermen this week, with one fishermen selling his large fish, over 40 pounds, for $7.80 per pound. The lowest price on the dock was $7 straight.

Halibut prices have been strong all year, but the flurry of price increases this week went into uncharted territory.

Fish buyer Brad Faulkner said one buyer bid on a load at $7.15, $7.35, $7.65 and lost it to the  buyer who paid $7.80 for large fish. That buyer paid $7.35 for smalls and $7.50 for mediums.

The bidding war is somewhat of a surprise as Faulkner said there is a significant number of fish crossing the docks, which usually lowers the price in the age-old supply-and-demand system.

As of Tuesday, there had been 81 landings for a total of 720,000 pounds in Homer for the season. Statewide, the landings were at 5.5 million pounds, about one-third of the 17.5 million pound allocation.

Faulkner added that the market is not really able to absorb those extra-high prices, and they will definitely drop as the Copper River salmon season gets into full swing and competes for the high-end restaurant market, and other types of fresh fish come on the market.

“Halibut competes with salmon, competes with tilapia for that matter,” he said. “For fresh fish it’s been halibut. We’ve always had that nice shot in the spring without salmon competition.”

He said the Copper River sockeye price is always very high in the beginning, much like halibut, but after two or three openings, “all of a sudden the fish hit, and the market gets down in the $2.25 range.”

It might be awhile before fresh Copper River sockeye prices are much of a detriment to halibut prices. Top dock prices in Cordova for the first opening Monday was $6.00 per pound. King salmon sold for $9.00.

Prices at the retail level for the famous load of king salmon flown to Seattle on Alaska Airlines was reported at $37.95.

The fisherman who received the highest price on the dock on Monday said he did not know about a price war, but “they definitely have been bidding the price up,” he said. “That was huge. Everybody has been up in that zone, not that high, but $7, $7.10, $7.30.”

Seawatch is going fishing for the season. Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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