Kodiak trails Homer by just 60,000 pounds in the annual competition to land the most halibut in Alaska, but both ports are facing the same problem — new reports of mushy halibut syndrome.

The syndrome is named after its characteristic effects — halibut meat that appears jelly-like when raw and mushy or watery when cooked. The taste of the fish is usually unaffected, but its texture and appearance makes it unappetizing.

Mushy halibut syndrome was first recorded in 1989 but has been on the rise in the past two years.

“It’s super localized here in the gulf right now,” International Pacific Halibut Council biologist Jessica Marx told the Dutch Harbor Fisherman newspaper. “As far as we know it’s really only showed in Kodiak, Seward (and) Homer.”

Fish affected by the syndrome do not fight on the line and may have wrinkled skin near the base of their dorsal and ventral fins. Their skin may be translucent on the white side, revealing muscle bands.

A mineral deficiency is believed to be the cause of mushy halibut syndrome, but that cause is unconfirmed, as is the spread of the syndrome.

The IPHC is asking any fisherman who finds a mushy halibut email research@iph.int with the date, location and depth of the catch.

Cases also may be reported to Jayde Ferguson at 267-2394 or jayde.ferguson@alaska.gov.

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