Fish Radio
Groundfish catches face 20% cut in Gulf of Alaska
December 1, 2016

Groundfish trawlers Credit:

Groundfish trawlers

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Cuts are in store for the Gulf’s biggest groundfish catches.  More after this —

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  We reported this week that most Bering Sea fish stocks are booming, but that’s not the case the Gulf.  

“Overall, about a 20 percent decrease. If you take all of the ABCs and sum them across all species the whole thing is done by about 60,000 tons. That 60,000 just about equates to the decrease in pollock and p- cod with about 50,000 of it coming from pollock and 10,000 from p cod.”   

Jim Armstrong is the North Pacific Council’s Plan Coordinator for Gulf of Alaska groundfish, where nearly 130 different fish are managed when various complexes, like rockfish, are broken out.  Pollock catches for this year were increased by 30 percent, but that’s not the case moving forward.

“It’s not going to be an increase this year.”

Armstrong says the Gulf pollock fishery appears to be sustained by a single strong 2012 year class and good recruitment   doesn’t appear to be coming down the pike.

 “Pollock is a bit worrisome because of the dominant year class. When the stock assessment was presented to the plan team it doesn’t appear it’s being followed by an even average year class. So we may be seeing that go down until another strong year class comes up and we haven’t seen that yet.”  

Warmer Gulf waters, Armstrong says, are the likely cause of the downturn –

“What that tends to do – we have zooplankton that in cold years have a lot more lipids and are more nutritionally valuable to pollock and we need those years to create those big year classes”   

Meanwhile, next year’s pollock catch will likely be around 200,000 metric tons. Cod catches could also be down slightly, based on results of new stock modeling.  Anderson says P-cod is one tough stock to assess.

“Pacific cod has a history in both the Gulf and Bering Sea of just being hard to do a stock assessment on. Most of that has to do with the aging of Pacific cod is really difficult.”  

Gulf cod catches will be in the 150,000 ton range. One bright spot in the Gulf is sablefish – catches will increase in all four Gulf fishing regions and in the Bering Sea. The boost results from adding data from whale depredation impacts, or more simply, whales robbing sablefish from gear.

“Because you’re taking into account fish that rather than naively assuming that all the fish you get on a survey, for example, index back to biomass, you’re saying that you’re catching fish on the survey but there are also fish that should be on the line but the whales ate them. So then you’ve got more fish and therefore the biomass works out to be greater.   It’s really an interesting phenomenon to have that be a major factor in a stock assessment.”    

The North Pacific Council meets December 6 through 14 at the Anchorage Hilton.  All sessions are streamed live on the web. Find links at

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