Halibut season ends with prices down, some quota uncaught

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

PETERSBURG (AP) -- Ripples from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks weakened prices at the end of Alaska eight-month halibut season, which closed Nov. 15 with about three million pounds of the quota remaining.

Statewide totals show season landings at 95 percent of the 58.5 million pound allocation.

''We had some pretty poor weather the last month and a half or so. Some people felt they couldn't get out there to finish fishing their allocations,'' said Jessie Garrett of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

More than 8.5 million pounds of halibut was delivered in Kodiak in 2001, including 162,000 pounds of halibut in the last week of the season.

Season-end prices were in the rage of $1.60 to $1.80 a pound in Kodiak for freezer-bound halibut, while payments ranged up to $2 a pound for fresh sales, according to Alaska Fresh Seafoods owner Dave Woodruff.

The Sept. 11 attacks hurt the price as the season was coming to an end.

Processors say the season started out stable, but Norquest seafood president Terry Gardnier says the market gradually cooled off.

''The halibut price, especially on the frozen front has been gradually slipping since the season opened,'' Gardiner said.

''And with the events of September, halibut, like other seafood products -- especially high-end products -- took a dive in prices. There was just general resistance to buying from people who just didn't want to make decisions or stack up inventory with all the uncertainty''

That's also the assessment from Taku Smokeries Plant Manager Eric Norman.

''Even the big fish have dropped in price,'' Norman said. ''It's a little sluggish down in the Lower 48. The restaurant trade, grocery stores and everywhere else.''

In recent years, halibut prices have reached as much as $2.75 a pound.

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