By Carey Restino
Homer is No. 1 once again when it comes to halibut, landing some 4.4 million pounds and beating out Kodiak this year by 1 million pounds.
Homer has traditionally led the pack in halibut landings, reportedly the No. 1 halibut port for commercial landings since the IFQ program was put in place in the mid-1990s.
But in 2011 and 2012, Kodiak beat out the Cosmic Hamlet, catching everyone by surprise. Those in the industry speculated the island topped Homer because of prices and the ability of fisherman to shop around via satellite phones from the fishing grounds for the best prices.
But Matt Clarke, deputy harbormaster in Homer, said Homer is likely to remain the top landings port for halibut because of its proximity to the fishing grounds and to market. Since Homer is on the road system, fish can be iced and shipped to market fresh.
“Homer has a logistical advantage compared to other coastal ports,” Clarke said.
Clarke said Homer sees not only landings from fishing vessels homeported in town but also from vessels as far away as Seattle, Juneau, Sitka and even Kodiak.
“We are experiencing landings from commercial vessels from all over and that’s a function of the high prices offered here,” he said.
Part of the reason Homer’s port is able to command such high prices for halibut is because the city has an open access port, rather than having a port owned by a single company who can command a certain price for all fish offloaded at their dock.
“What you are seeing is a free market business model,” Clarke said, with multiple buyers competing for fish and thus raising the prices.
Clarke said the port didn’t do anything differently this year to attract the top halibut landing port title back again. No concessions were offered this year that were different, he said, and moorage rates remained the same, as did ice prices, crane prices and tariffs.
“There hasn’t been anything done to specifically attract a certain class of commercial fishing vessel,” he said.
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