Trawlers can opt for cod pots
October 29, 2015
This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch — Trawlers might soon opt for cod pots. I’ll tell you more after this –
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One of the tools being talked about to help trawlers reduce salmon and halibut bycatch is the opportunity to voluntarily convert to pot gear to catch Pacific cod. It’s an option being discussed by fishery managers as they craft a trawl bycatch reduction plan for the Gulf of Alaska.
Really what the council is trying to do throughout this entire discussion is to give the fleet tools to fish in a way that is going to get less bycatch, and thus keep the fisheries open longer, because the amount of bycatch that is taken can constrain a fishery. Again, if you’re not in a race for fish, one strategy you could use, while it might slow down your fishing, would be to use pot gear instead of trawl gear.
Sam Cunningham is a North Pacific Fishery Management Council economist.
The reason someone might be interested in using pot gear, and the reason is that it would have lower bycatch of prohibited species of Chinook salmon and halibut, and when those species are caught incidentally they would be less likely to die because they are caught in pot gear.
Cod is the only groundfish species included because it currently can be taken with both trawl and pot gear. Cunningham says a focus now is on crafting protections and catch accounting methods to make sure converting to pots would not infringe on the harvests of other gear sectors.
That’s why we have sector splits for Pacific cod in the first place. If all gears were fishing from the same available harvest of cod, then you might think the trawl sector would catch the most fish. So that’s why the trawl, hook and line, pot and jig sector all have specific cod allocations and we want to maintain that.
Some trawlers already go back and forth between the two gears and they would not be able to ‘double dip’ with the sector quotas. As with all fishery management plans Cunningham says the goal is to avoid those types of “unintended consequences.”
A goal that everyone can agree on, but making sure that we don’t do something that by circumstance disadvantages somebody or deprives them of their historical opportunities.
Currently, if the trawl fleet takes 7,500 Chinook salmon, or close to four million pounds of halibut, the fisheries are shut down. There are about 20 trawl catcher/processors and 70 catcher vessels operating in the Gulf, which offload mostly at Kodiak, Sand Point and King Cove.
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. (www.oceanbeauty.com) In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.