Fish Radio

Groundfish stocks strong, big catches through 2017

December 23, 2105

Pollock fishing aboard the F/V Ocean Hope 3 Credit:

Pollock fishing aboard the F/V Ocean Hope 3

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Alaska’s groundfish stocks are going strong. More on next year’s catches after this –

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Catches of pollock, cod, flounders and other groundfish accounted for 84 percent of Alaska’s harvest poundage last year. No matter how robust the stocks are, managers always opt for sustainability. In the Bering Sea, that means never exceeding a two million metric ton harvest cap.

The biomass overall in the Bering Sea is extremely healthy for all of the stocks.  In terms of the catch quotas, the balancing act is really the constraint of the two million metric ton cap. While a lot of the stocks could have higher total allowable catches set for them the council balances between the different stocks and the different fleets in order to meet that two million mt constraint.

Diana Stram is the North Pacific Council’s  groundfish plan coordinator for the Bering Sea. There are 22 different species under the   Council’s purview, along with non targeted species like sharks, sculpin and squids.

For pollock, the nation’s largest fishery, the catch for the next two years is up slightly to 1.3 million metric tons, or just under three billion pounds. Pacific cod is down a bit to 525 million pounds to accommodate the various gears and fleets.  Flatfish stocks are very healthy, Stram says, but catches were lowered due to halibut bycatch concerns.

I would say one of the biggest considerations in the Bering Sea right now is halibut bycatch, and particularly in the flatfish fisheries. The fisheries worked voluntarily last year to reduce their halibut bycatch and they did a good job but it still remains a concern.

Fish stocks also are booming in the Gulf of Alaska where catches will be up overall by six percent..

It sure looks good. Pollock is up about 30 percent and Pacific cod is down just a smidge but nothing we’re too worried about.

 Jim Armstrong is Plan Coordinator for Gulf groundfish, where 25 species are counted, and about 130 when various complexes, like rockfish, are broken out.

Pollock catches will be 572 million pounds through 2017, and cod at about 158 million pounds.   One concern is sablefish, which is managed both in the Gulf and Bering Sea as a single unit stock. Those catches are down 14 percent.

It’s a concern. One of the reassurances in terms of the quality of information and our understanding of what’s going on with the stock is that this coming year we’re going to have the Center for Independent Experts will be reviewing the sablefish assessment so we’ll better understand what’s behind all that.

Both coordinators credit the Council for its ecosystem approach to fisheries management and always deferring to science. Diana Stram –

I think the council does a very responsible and good job of maintaining healthy, robust stocks and really relying on the  scientific input they get in order to manage the stocks.

Millions more pounds of groundfish also hails from state managed fisheries within three miles of shore. Find links to all of Alaska’s fish catches at

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.