Pollock, cod news good for Unalaska, but not for Kodiak
But things look pretty bleak for the Gulf of Alaska. That’s bad news for Kodiak and other gulf communities where fishing is a big part of the local economy.
In its December meeting in Anchorage, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a 2002 fishing allowance of 2 million tons for all groundfish in the Bering Sea, about the same as 2001. Stocks of pollock and cod are in good shape in the Bering Sea, according to National Marine Fisheries Services scientists.
Not so in the Gulf of Alaska, however. Scientists recommended a smaller allowable harvest, and the council approved a 2002 catch of 237,880 metric tons of all species of groundfish, which include pollock and cod.
That’s less than half the 554,710 metric ton harvest allowed in 2001.
A lower groundfish harvest will hit Kodiak doubly hard because local fishermen have also done poorly in crab because of smaller harvests in recent years. And though the Kodiak fleet fared better than most in the 2001 summer salmon season, lower prices resulted in lower earnings.
Setting the annual groundfish allowable catch was the main business for the fishery management council in its December meeting, which concluded Dec. 10.
The council also approved a change in the amount of halibut fishermen from Norton Sound, the Yukon Delta and St. Lawrence Island can harvest on each trip, from 6,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds.
The change will allow the fishermen to catch more halibut and, ultimately, use larger, more efficient vessels. A halibut quota is allocated by the council for Community Development Quota groups, and in the northern Bering Sea the quota is set aside for local fishermen.
The council also received progress reports on a complex plan being developed to streamline crab fisheries with a system of quotas for fishermen and processors.
The intent is to reduce the number of vessels fishing for crab by allowing the formation of cooperatives in which quotas can be shared.
In that way, the number of vessels actually fishing can be fewer but the benefits can be shared with vessel owners who choose not to fish that season.
Hearings on the plan are scheduled for the council’s February meeting, with action by the council expected in its April meeting.