Slow fishing, high demand pushing up Pacific halibut prices

But as weather and fishing conditions are set to improve, industry experts believe prices will soften soon.

Strong demand and little volumes of Pacific halibut in the market have pushed up prices, but industry watchers believe things will stabilize when fishing improves.

The Pacific halibut season opened March 11 and runs through Nov. 7, however fishing has been slow so far.

"We've had boats up and down the coast now waiting on the weather," said Mike Erickson, president and fleet manager of Juneau-based Alaska Glacier Seafoods. "We had good deliveries right out of the box when people were able to fish, but bad weather kept boats in the harbor and no boats fished this week other than today [Thursday]."

Dan Dennis of Alaska's Finest Seafood echoed a similar message.

"It's been a slow start. We had some bad weather. Yesterday [Wednesday] most of the boats came in early," he told IntraFish, adding a few days ago fishermen were battling snow as well.

Currently halibut is selling for an average price of $7 (€6.58) per pound, one industry member said.

Some may "jump up to $7.50 [€7.05] to get some fish because there's none around," he said, but next week better landings should bring the price down to $6 to $7 (€5.64 to €6.58) per pound.

"But I don't think it'll get much lower than that," he told IntraFish.

Another industry expert told IntraFish, "$6.50 (€6.13) to $7.00 a pound is what we are hearing."

Dennis said, "prices are up right now, but it should come down in a few weeks."

Erickson agreed, saying he expects prices to change with improved harvest numbers in coming days.

"Demand is there, but the whole market's been short now for four to five days. The halibut dries up and people are screaming for fish now but none are available," Erickson told IntraFish. "But I see some strong landings coming up so that will push down prices a bit.

"We expect to see good landings by this weekend. The next few days, the weather looks pretty good. Boats are headed into the water as we speak," he said.

Nevertheless, prices are not as volatile as they were 10 years ago when fishermen rushed out at the beginning of the season to cash in on higher prices, Erickson said.

Prices have stabilized and without feeling the pressure of hitting the waters right away, it's also made the fishery safer too, he said.

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