Fish prices plummet as coronavirus pandemic cripples industry and idles boats

Pandemic cripples Hawaii’s fishing industry — but consumers enjoy lower fish prices

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the coronavirus pandemic ripples through Hawaii’s economy, the state’s fishing industry is taking a severe hit.

But the downturn has provided consumers with an unexpected benefit: Lower fish prices.

Since the city and state banned sit-down services at restaurants, fishing boats have been idle on the docks as the wholesale price of ahi and salmon has plunged from about $4 a pound to as little at 20 cents a pound.

Many of the boats won’t go back out because the price for fish won’t even pay for fuel costs.

“We’re sitting side-tied waiting for about a four or five day wait to offload. I have 12,000 pounds of fish right now,” said Mike Wild, captain of the longline vessel the Kilauea.

“It’s going to hurt all the owners in their pockets and it’s hurting the crews. It might put a few guys out of business.”

Skip Gallimore, who owns three fishing boats, thinks the pandemic’s impact on the fishing industry is even more severe. “It’s a shame. I don’t think anyone has realized what’s happened to our fishing industry. It’s gone.”

The glut has also hurt wholesalers and distributors who no longer have hotels and restaurants to sell to.

Dave Marabella, president of Garden and Valley Isle Seafood, said he recently laid off 70% of his workers.

“It’s a frightening thing. I never thought I’d experience anything like this," he said. "We have to get some kind of financial assistance and we need it like yesterday. "

While the loads of supply may be disastrous for the fishing industry, it’s good news for consumers.

Hundreds of customers lined up at Pier 38 -- some for hours -- seeking bargain basement prices for ahi and salmon.
Hundreds of customers lined up at Pier 38 -- some for hours -- seeking bargain basement prices for ahi and salmon. (Source: none)

Lured by $4 a pound ahi and $8 a pound salmon, hundreds of customers waited in their cars for hours Thursday in lines that snaked through the Pier 38′s parking lot.

Without hotels and restaurants buying, Fresh Island Fish Co., the state’s largest seafood distributor, began selling directly to the public at fire sale prices.

“Five pounds at 20 bucks. Can’t go wrong. Plenty poke tonight," said one happy customer.

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