Pollock, a cheap whitefish that’s a mainstay of fish sticks and processed fish sandwiches, typically comes from Bering Sea trawlers, but trawlers based in Kodiak harvest a respectable amount of the fish from the Gulf of Alaska each year.
This year’s total allowable catch in the central Gulf was 57,600 metric tons, split between two zones in an area that ranges from west of Kodiak Island to the west entrance of Prince William Sound.
Last year’s allowable catch for the same area was just under 40,000 metric tons.
“In the Kodiak area, fishing was absolutely fantastic,” said Julie Bonney, who works in Kodiak for the Alaska
Groundfish Data Bank and represents the island’s trawl fleet. “We were able to get a lot of product over the dock.”
That came largely as a result of a self-imposed catch share plan among the boats in the fishery, said Josh Keaton, who manages the fishery for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“This year, the fleet decided to come forward with a catch share plan … where each vessel got to fish a certain amount of fish,” he said.
Ordinarily, the pollock fleet in the Gulf operates in a derby-style fishery that has vessels competing against each other.
As a result of the voluntary catch share plan, the pollock catch in the D season, the fourth of four pollock fisheries in the central Gulf, was spread out over its full allowable time, from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1.
Usually, the pollock boats gather their fish quickly, Keaton said. The new system “provided a lot of flexibility and take your time,” he said. “The plants were able to spread out their work, which results in better quality. We’re happy with how everything worked out, and I think it was beneficial for the fishermen.”
In the western Gulf of Alaska, which includes a stretch of water far west of Kodiak and south of the Aleutians, fish were harder to come by. Fishermen took only about 76 percent of the quota.
“They just had trouble finding the fish,” Keaton said.
This year was also the last without a king salmon bycatch cap for the fleet. Pollock trawlers try to target that specific whitefish, but more valuable king salmon are occasionally caught in trawl nets.
Salmon fishermen complained, and when the Gulf’s pollock fleet caught 44,000 king salmon as bycatch last year, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council stepped in.
Next year, the Gulf fleet will be limited to 25,000 king salmon as bycatch. Any more, and the fishery will be shut down. Ahead of the cap, trawlers changed tactics, and this year only 15,900 king salmon were caught.
“Generally, they did pretty good,” Keaton said.
Next year’s fishery could be even better. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is scheduled to approve catch recommendations that include an allowable catch of almost 75,000 metric tons of pollock for the central Gulf.
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.