Kodiak city and borough officials plan to put a disaster declaration into Governor Walker’s hands by year’s end due to the cod crash throughout the Gulf of Alaska.

Cod catches next year will drop by 80 percent to less than 29 million pounds in federal waters from three to 200 miles offshore, compared to nearly 142 million pounds this year.

In state waters out to three miles, catches will drop below 10 million pounds, down from over 48 million pounds.

Cod fish typically accounts for about 30 percent of the Gulf’s total groundfish harvest and over 20 percent of the total Pacific cod catch in Alaska. What’s worse is the downturn is expected to last for several years.

“They anticipate this could last up to 2021.” 

Heather McCarty is Kodiak’s fishery analyst.

 “This kind of low resource situation is looking at us for the next few years. It’s almost like a double, triple, quadruple disaster because it’s not just one year.”  

The cod decline is blamed on younger fish not surviving warm ocean temperatures that began in 2014.

It  will be a huge hit to the coffers of coastal communities, which get a 3 percent tax on all fish landings.

At Kodiak, where 40 percent of the Gulf cod crosses the docks, the value to fishermen is expected to decrease from $48 million to $9.6 million, based on a five year average.

Kodiak City Council member John Whiddon said there are criteria for declaring a fisheries disaster prior to an event occurring, and an 80 percent reduction in cod catches over five years meets required thresholds.

McCarty agreed that a disaster declaration is likely from the Governor.

“But then you’ve got to get the money and that is allocated through a different process handled by Alaska’s delegation in Congress.”

Disaster funds for the 2016 pink salmon crash, for example, have been attached to a federal hurricane relief funding bill yet to be passed.

“The cod money –given that everything else goes smoothly – will have to go through the same process.”

At Kodiak, the state waters cod catch in 2018 will be 2.2 million pounds, down from more than 12 million pounds in 2017.   But Kodiak won’t be the only fishing town to feel an economic pinch.

At Cook Inlet the cod take next year will drop to under 700,000 pounds compared to more than six million pounds in 2017.

At Prince William Sound, the cod catch will be less than 1 million pounds, down from more than 4 million pounds.

Find links to Kodiak’s disaster relief letter here 

Thanks to the assist by KMXT/Kodiak.