Halibut market tanks due to air cargo snafus

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2001

KODIAK (AP) -- Even Alaska's halibut market has been disrupted by ripples from the terrorist attack on the East Coast.

Without access to the nation's air cargo system to ship fresh halibut to market, the price paid to fishermen has plunged.

When processors can't fly out the fresh fish, they have to freeze it. Frozen halibut brings a lower price, so the processors pay less to fishermen.

At the beginning of last week, before the attacks, halibut over 40 pounds brought $2.40 a pound in Homer and $2.20 a pound in Kodiak. This week, the Kodiak price was $1.60 to $1.90.

In Homer, boats were tied up at the docks with fish aboard and no market.

''There are definitely loads begging for a home,'' said fish buyer Brad Faulkner of Homer, the state's leading halibut port.

Halibut, which is perceived as a luxury, is not selling well to the American consumer, Faulkner said.

Custom processor Dave Woodruff in Kodiak was telling fishermen to wait to fish halibut until the market stabilizes.

''I've suggested my guys refrain from fishing for the next few weeks until we see where its all going. Prices are free-falling. Frozen inventory is very high,'' Woodruff said.

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