Dock prices for Alaska’s most popular species of finfish are at the top of their historical range, partly due to a supply shortage and partly due to increasing popularity.
Prices for halibut are at record highs, with current levels at around $6.50 per pound for 10-20 pound fish (smalls), $6.75 for 20-40 pound fish (mediums), and $6.90 for 40-ups (large), according to Jeff Berger, a manager at Copper River Seafoods, which buys fish at multiple ports in Alaska.
The company has bought large halibut for even more, but their scarcity makes it fairly meaningless, according to Berger.
“We paid $7.00 for 40-ups, but there aren’t any, so you might as well throw that number away,” he said. “The average price is about $6.50.”
Berger expects prices to come down somewhat after Mother’s Day, but probably not by much.
“There’s usually a bit of a lull,” he said. “I expect it to be around $6.40/$6.60/$6.80, in that range.”
The other fish that is fetching premium prices is salmon, with the season starting today on the Copper River, the earliest salmon fishery in the state.
The fishery also is the one that attracts the most publicity, with helicopters flying fish off the Copper River Flats to Seattle on Alaska Airlines jets. The prized salmon is carried off the plane by the captain and given a kiss before handing it off to chefs.
A high price for Copper River sockeye salmon is usually good news for other salmon fisheries in the state, and this year is looking fairly strong.
There has been talk about an opening price of $6.50 per pound for Copper River sockeye, but that is not likely, according to Scott Blake, CEO of Copper River Seafoods.
Blake expected the opening dock price to be around $4.50, up from about $4.20 last season.
“The market’s strong, and I think sockeye prices as a whole this year, unless something changes with the projections and a whole bunch of fish come in, it will be at least as high as last year if not a little bit higher,” he said.
In 2013, the average price for sockeye salmon in Prince William Sound, which includes Copper River, was $2.28 per pound. That same year, it was $2.25 in Cook Inlet, $1.50 in Bristol Bay, and averaged $1.60 state-wide.
Seawatch is going fishing for the summer. Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.