Fish Radio
Groundfish stocks booming in Bering Sea

November 29, 2016

Pollock haul in the Bering Sea Credit: NOAA

Pollock haul in the Bering Sea
Credit: NOAA

This is Fish Radio. I ‘m Laine Welch – Fish stocks are booming in the Bering Sea. I’ll tell you more after this –

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Next week fishery managers will set Total Allowable Catches, or TACs, for groundfish in federal waters, meaning from three to 200 miles from shore. More than 80 percent of Alaska’s seafood poundage comes from those waters, and by all accounts the stocks are in great shape.

For the Bering Sea, just about everything is up. 

Diana Stram is the North Pacific Council’s Bering Sea groundfish plan coordinator. There are 22 different species under the Council’s purview, along with non targeted species like sharks, octopus and squid. For Alaska’s biggest fishery -Bering Sea pollock – the stock is so healthy catches could safely double to nearly 3 million metric tons.  But the TAC will remain nearer to this year’s harvest of half that, due to a strict two million ton cap applied across the board.

We call it a cap but it’s actually the upper limit on optimum yield and that means that the sum of all the TACs in the Bering Sea cannot exceed two million metric tons. 

With all stocks being so healthy, Stram says catch setting becomes a trade off among the varying species.

So that’s great news but it also means the TAC setting will be a little bit more complicated because they’re going to have to be trading off between this big increase  in pollock, with an increase in P cod, sablefish is also up for the first time in awhile, most of the flatfishes are up, yellow fin sole is up substantially, as well as the rockfish stocks. 

The Council also sets bycatch levels for the various fisheries, and Stram says that makes setting catches even more constraining.

I think for the Bering Sea TAC setting is really going to be trading off between bycatch issues, halibut bycatch in the flatfish fisheries with the increases in pollock and Pacific cod. 

For this year and next, the Council could ok more than six million pounds of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea groundfish fisheries.

Stram says another Council concern is potential problems from warming oceans –

We’re not sure what the trend will be going forward but it was the warmest year on record in the Bering Sea which is always a concern. In terms of the fish stocks, everything see,s to be very healthy in the Bering Sea.

The North Pacific Council meets December 6 through 14 at the Anchorage Hilton.  All sessions are streamed live on the web. And stay tuned for Gulf groundfish and halibut catches coming up next.  Find links for all at

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