Fish Radio
Science sends sablefish to food banks
February 5, 2016

Hatched sablefish larvae Credit:

Hatched sablefish larvae


This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. Science sends sablefish to food banks. I’ll tell you more after this —

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Sablefish, or black cod, are one of the priciest, high end fish, and Alaska waters are home to the biggest stocks. But numbers – as measured by the amount of spawning females – have been decreasing about 3 percent a year since 2004, and researchers aim to find out why.

The primary reason for the decline, we believe recent recruitment, reproductive success as well as new fish entering into the population have been below average.

Katy Echave is at the NOAA Auke Bay lab in Juneau and chief scientist for the sablefish project. The ultimate goal is to have more accurate assessments of female spawners, now and in the future. In December a research team tagged 40 female Gulf of Alaska sablefish in the with pop-off satellite tags that will release on a set date.

And this tagging has all been done to get a better idea of where and when these females are releasing their eggs so we have a better idea of what environmental conditions are causing this period of low recruitment, which is likely caused by low survival in their egg and larval stages. 

Samples of fish ear bones, ovaries and livers are now being scrutinized in Auke Bay labs. Researchers also hope to find clues to why some sablefish are skipping spawning, first spotted in 2011.

Meanwhile, needy Alaskans are enjoying the black cod right now. By law, research fish must be tossed overboard – but this went instead to feed the hungry.

To me that was the neatest aspect of all of this and I cannot rave enough about the F/V Gold Rush who we contracted to do this survey. 22 They came to me saying instead of tossing this fish overboard, is there any way we can donate it. 15 And the Gold Rush went about coordinating all the logistics for getting the fish processed by Trident who donated their plant and time and getting it then distributed it to the food bank.

In all 4,000 pounds of research fish went to the Kodiak food bank.

It was just very neat and a very good example of healthy relationships in Alaska with members of the industry and researchers all trying to do the good thing here. 

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.