Coronavirus concerns forced annual surveys to be cancelled for fish and crab stocks in waters managed by the federal government from three to 200 miles offshore. But all systems are go for surveys in state waters out to three miles
After herring surveys in late winter, Covid protections plans were quickly put in place, says Forrest Bowers is deputy director of the commercial fisheries division at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
“After those surveys, we started to develop protection plans that we have implemented, that are meant to keep both our staff safe as well as the public and, and so the components of those plans include things like reducing the number of poor calls and essentially not you know, non-essential port calls on The various muscle based surveys, but the Department official name has not cancelled any of our stock assessment surveys that are scheduled for the summer.”
Whereas deeper water surveys can include nearly 60 crew and scientists at sea for a few months, state research vessels have around 11 or so. The state surveys include a variety of fish and shellfish stocks from Southeast Alaska all the way to Norton Sound.
“We had vessel based work going on in Kodiak and supporting the herring fishery there. In April. We’ve already had some sample survey work here in Southeast Alaska. And then we have we have our multi species bottom trawl survey in the Gulf of Alaska is primarily a crab survey that’ll be going on this summer. So those are some of the major surveys that we do. And there’s a handful of other surveys around the state.”
Bowers says care and good planning have combined to keep the doors open and all projects in place.
“ I’d just like to emphasize to folks that we’ve taken our response to the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. We have kept all of our area offices open. We have you all of our field projects in place to monitor salmon stocks around the state this summer as well as our projects and support for ground fish and crab. And while it’s not business as usual we are conducting business in as close to normal fashion as we can in support of the fisheries around the state.”
The state’s fisheries are critically important, Bowers says all management activities are proceeding on schedule.
“Because we recognize the importance of those fisheries to the to the people of Alaska and our primary objective is to keep our staff safe and protect the public as well. And we believe we have plans in place to do that.”