Alaska’s seafood industry will be “open for business” starting January 1 when some of the biggest fisheries get underway long before the start of the first salmon runs in mid-May.
Cod will begin it all in the Bering Sea, which has a 305.5 million pound catch quota, down about a million pounds from 2019. Less than 6 million pounds of codfish will come out of the Gulf.
A 400,000 Tanner crab fishery at Kodiak starting on January 15 will be helpful to a town whose economic bottom line will be badly battered by the Gulf cod crash.
But it will be the opening of Alaska pollock on January 20 that will keep Kodiak’s processing workforce on the job, along with many other Gulf and Bering Sea communities.
The Gulf of Alaska pollock catch took a slide to about 250 million pounds, a drop of more than 57 million pounds from 2019. Conversely, the Bering Sea will produce over three billion pounds of Alaska pollock this year, a 2% increase.
Mid-January is also around the time when Bering Sea crabbers will get serious about pulling up snow crab. That quota is nearly 34 million pounds, a 24 percent increase from last season.
Southeast Alaska crabbers will drop pots for golden king crab and Tanner crab on February 17. In recent years, those harvests have been in the 76,000 and one million pound range, respectively.
Halibut fisheries will open to more than 2,000 Alaska longliners in March. Catches will be announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in early February.
Also coming in the spring – roe herring fisheries with some jaw dropping harvests. At Sitka Sound, a catch quota of 25,824 tons is double the 2019 limit when the fishery was called off for the first time in decades due to the small size of the fish. Managers predict heftier herring next spring, saying the forecasted 2020 age-4 herring population is “extremely high.”
“The 2020 forecast is larger than the estimated 2019 mature biomass of 130,738 tons and is greater than any forecast previously estimated for Sitka Sound herring,” said a release by the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
At Alaska’s biggest roe herring fishery at Togiak in Bristol Bay, a whopping 38,749 ton harvest is forecasted.
Up next for the state Board of Fisheries is Kodiak, where it will meet January 11-14. The seven member board sets the rules for subsistence, commercial, sport, and personal use fisheries and takes up issues by region every three years. Thirty-six Kodiak proposals are on the docket.