Fishermen harvested 91% of the total catch during this year’s rockfish season that closed Nov. 15, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
During the season that opened on May 1, 99% of the Pacific ocean perch, 58% of the northern rockfish and 81% of the dusky rockfish quotas were caught. A total of 21,017 metric tons of fish were harvested.
In addition, 74% of the cod and 96% of the sablefish quotas were harvested, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Rockfish is the only trawl fishery that is rationalized in the Gulf of Alaska.
With bottom or mid-water trawl fishing, a net is pulled through the water by a boat. A percentage of non-targeted species is caught incidentally. The non-targeted species allowed to be harvested is called prohibited species catch.
The only Prohibited species allocated to the cooperatives is halibut.
"You can’t fish in the North Pacific ocean and never catch any halibut," said a representative of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.
Fishermen cannot keep the halibut, and if any are landed at the plant, the plant cannot purchase any of them since they are prohibited species, according to the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.
The fishery is managed under the Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program, a rationalized program, implemented in 2012 and set to end in 2021.
In a rationalized fishery, each participating entity, whether a vessel or a cooperative, is allocated a certain amount of quota based on historical participation in the fishery.
Prior to the rationalization, rockfish season occurred in the summer during salmon season and only lasted two to three weeks, according to the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank.
In addition, the fishery was a race for fish, a management style in which fishermen compete against each other to harvest as much fish as they can until the the quota for each species is met— no matter the weather.
Critics of an unrationalized rockfish fishery cited issues with safety for the fishermen, less work for processors and difficulty of minimizing bycatch, species of fish that are caught incidentally and discarded.
The rockfish program was partially implemented to increase safety and stability to fishermen and shore-based processors by lengthening the season, increasing the value of the catch and avoiding interaction with the salmon fisheries.
In 2011, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council decided to set a sunset date for Dec. 21, 2021. The sunset date would end the program, period, unless the Council acted to remove or change the sunset date
The council, at its meeting in April, will vote to either remove the sunset date or establish a new date.