The North Pacific Fishery Management Council raised pollock quota for 2016, but only by half the requested amount, locked in by the 2 million metric ton cap for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands groundfish fishery.
The 2016 pollock limit for the Eastern Bering Sea is 1.34 million metric tons, a 30,000 metric ton increase from the 2015 limit but less than half the 65,000 metric ton increase the Advisory Panel recommended and the pollock biomass could’ve handled.
Groundfish — which includes pollock, Pacific cod, and flatfish — is capped at 2 million metric tons per year. Any increase in one species’ total allowable catch, or TAC, shaves the same amount from one or several others.
Brent Paine, executive director of pollock-heavy United Catcher Boats, said he was disappointed not to get the full 65,000 metric tons increase, but understood the council’s inability to go beyond its boundaries.
“It was just the 2 million ton cap,” Paine said. “You just have to balance the user groups. But (30,000 tons) is better than nothing.”
Pacific cod, the second most voluminous species in the groundfish fishery, took a only a scant 1,320 metric ton cut, from 240,000 in 2015 to 238,680 in 2016, despite the cod fleet having harvested almost 30,000 metric tons less than allowed in 2015.
To round up the extra pollock tonnage, the council cut flatfish quotas. Flatfish, particularly yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder and rock sole, are the main species whose harvests result in halibut bycatch.
Arrowtooth flounder took an 8,000 metric ton cut, from 22,000 metric tons in 2015 to 14,000 metric tons in 2016.