Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Seawatch: Cod season in federal waters is back

After no season this year, cod season returns in federal waters for 2021.

There will be a cod season in both federal waters and state waters next year, beginning Jan. 1, after a multi-year heatwave in the Gulf of Alaska killed several year classes and forced the closure of the federal season this year.

There was a small quota in state waters this year.

The state waters quota in Cook Inlet is expected to be 1.12 million pounds for the pot and jig quota, which would be 959,000 pounds for pot gear and 169,000 pounds for jig boats. Out of that, 25% of the pot quota can go to boats more than 58 feet, assuming they catch that amount before the smaller boat fleet fills the quota.

Kodiak splits the state waters quota evenly between pot and jig gear, with each getting about 1.9 million pounds.

Federal waters will have a quota of just over 38 million pounds.

The state waters season does not open until seven days after the federal season closes.

In spite of there being no trawl survey this year, there has been ongoing data gathering.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game area management biologist in Kodiak, Nathaniel Nichols, explained.

“There’s an extensive stock assessment for Pacific cod,” he said. “Other than pollock it’s the biggest fishery in the (Gulf of Alaska), so the federal stock assessment process takes into account a multitude of different data streams. One of the big drivers for the assessment is the biennial trawl survey. It was never scheduled for this summer. The assessment takes into account a number of other surveys that did happen, the (International Pacific Halibut Commission) longline surveys, the (Alaska Fisheries Science Center) sablefish longline survey, and a bunch of observer data and also the state dockside sampling data survey.”

There has been some concern among fishermen that the cod being caught around Cook Inlet seem to be large and of a single year class, signaling another possible crash in the cod population.

Nichols said there is reason for cautious optimism.

“There are signs out there of recruitment, not anything that’s going to turn this thing around in a matter of a couple of years. People get excited about these quotas going up. They are up, but they are still very, very small. Two and a half times sounds big, but when you’re starting with a small number it doesn’t add up to much.”

He added that the modeling shows stocks going up again next year.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

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