A small cod fishery will open next year in the Gulf of Alaska in five regions: Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Chignik and the South Alaska Peninsula.

The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game announced on Wednesday that a cod harvest of just under 5.6 million pounds will be allowed in in state waters next year, down from 10.2 million pounds in 2019.

The decision comes on the heels of an announced cod closure for a federal fishery in Gulf waters from three to 200 miles out. Gulf cod stocks were clobbered by a three year heat wave starting in 2014 that hit several year classes and their offspring by throwing their diets and metabolism off kilter.

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With such a big drop, managers by law must apportion enough cod for the diet of sea lions, a protected species. Doug Vincent-Lang is Commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.

 “The closure they’ve announced this year is not because of over fishing or a stock collapse.  It’s really because of federal mitigation measures for Steller sea lions.”     

The state waters cod fishery will be open only to fishermen using pots or jig gear, except at Prince William Sound where longlining is allowed.

All regions will open on January 1 for jig gear except at Prince William Sound which will open on the first of February. Pot gear will be allowed in February at Cook Inlet and Kodiak and in March at Chignik and the South Pen.

The South Peninsula gets the biggest share of the cod catch at over 2.1 million pounds followed by Kodiak at 1.5 million pounds.

Chignik will see a catch of just over one million pounds; at Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, the cod catch is under a half million pounds.

Commissioner Vincent-Lang called the decision was a “balancing act” and said he’s aware of the impacts to fishing families and communities.

“This decision is a carefully thought out and conservative approach to recognize the balance between conservation and Alaska’s right to manage our own resources. We are confident that we’ve struck that balance in this decision and will be monitoring to avoid over harvest yet provide our fishermen the opportunity to fish.”

 Governor Mike Dunleavy said in a statement that he trusts ADF&G to closely monitor and manage the fishery in a way that avoids overharvest and yet provide an opportunity to fish and provide tax revenues for fishing towns.