Fish Factor: Permit prices make strides and take dives across state fisheries
There's lots of movement in Alaska's salmon permit markets, but sales of catch shares are in a stall.
Permit values are up and down depending on region, and interest reflects how the salmon runs have been coming in. For example in Bristol Bay, where sockeye runs have been down for two years and another lackluster season is expected this summer, salmon drift permit values have nose-dived from a $165,000 high-water mark in 2011 to around $90,000 now.
"It's hard to imagine they will go up a lot with a catch forecast of 16 to 17 million salmon this year," said Doug Bowen at Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer.
Likewise, drift permits at Alaska Peninsula fisheries (Area M) that topped $150,000 in 2011 now are also priced around $90,000. The value of Kodiak seine permits also has dropped to below $40,000.
"There has been just a general lack of interest in those permits and there are quite a few on the market and very few interested buyers," Bowen said.
On the upside, driven by robust sockeye returns in recent years, the value of drift permits at Cook Inlet is ticking upwards to the $80,000 range. A scan of broker sites shows Prince William Sound seine permits have dipped a bit to the $140,000 range.
The priciest card at the moment is at Southeast Alaska where salmon runs have been robust.
Seine permits "which have completely dried up with the announcement of another buyback round," said Mike Painter at Permit Master, have topped $250,000 and $110,000 for driftnet permits. Alaskan Quota and Permits in Petersburg has a Southeast seine permit listed at $306,000.
Catch share crunch
It will cost a fisherman more than that to get his hands on 100,000 pounds of halibut in prime Alaska fishing regions. Not surprisingly, that side of the broker business is slow and there's not much to sell, especially for halibut where catches have been slashed by 70 percent over three years and more cuts are coming.
"That's taken some of the excitement out of the IFQ market for sure, and then we also saw lower prices in 2012 for both halibut and black cod. We lost a dollar or two at the docks on both, so that didn't help the quota market either," said Bowen.
Brokers are posting halibut shares in the Central Gulf at $32-$38 per pound, the Western Gulf at $23-$30 and $20 a share in the Bering Sea. Halibut shares in Southeast are even higher, due to speculation that fishing there might dodge double digit cuts.
"We sold a small 3,000 pound block in 2C for $45 a pound, again with the anticipation that the area has bottomed out and is heading back up," Bowen said. "We'll see."
Shares of sablefish, or black cod, also are pricey, ranging from $28 to $34 in the Central Gulf and Southeast. Some brokers list Bering Sea sablefish at $2-$3 per pound.
Dock Street Brokers is the go-to place for the buying/selling/trading of Bering Sea crab shares - which are almost never available. The one listing is for 21,000 pounds of St. Matthew blue king crab at $18 a pound.
Big meetings this month
Lots of fish meetings are in the January lineup where decisions affect the fishing industry's bottom lines.
The state Board of Fisheries meets Jan. 15-20 at the Anchorage Sheraton Hotel. The BOF will take up 70 proposals for commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim (AYK) region. Audio of the meeting will be streamed live.
Meetings on the new expanded observer program will be in Southeast Alaska starting Jan. 15 at Ketchikan, Jan. 16 at Sitka and the Jan. 17 at Juneau.
Alaska halibut fishermen will find out how much, or better put - how little - fish they can catch this year when the International Pacific Halibut Commission meets the week of Jan. 21 in Victoria, British Columbia. Coast wide halibut catches could be cut by more than 30 percent this year, meaning about 17.5 million pounds for Alaska. Only seven public comments were submitted to the IPHC on catch limit concerns by the end of year deadline.
One seat on the state Board of Fisheries became available last week with the sudden resignation of Bill Brown of Juneau. Brown was appointed to the board in 2008 and his term was due to expire on June 30, 2014. The governor has 30 days to fill the seat and is soliciting applicants. The terms of BOF members Vince Webster of King Salmon and Tom Kluberton of Talkeetna also expire at the end of June. All appointments must be confirmed by the Alaska legislature.
Two seats also are opening on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council this summer. Terms are expiring for Duncan Fields of Kodiak and Sam Cotton of Eagle River.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission also is seeking applicants for two US commissioner seats. Nominations can be sent to the IPHC for 30 days.
Fishing film fest!
Even if you miss this weekend's screening of films at the 2nd annual Commercial Fishing Film Festival - you can catch the videos online. Host Dave Clark of Juneau said the audience will select winners from three hours of submissions ranging from "raw and unedited" to highly produced pieces. See the videos at www.comfishfilmfest.com.