Cod quota reduction expected

Seafoodnews.com is reporting that serious reductions are inevitable for both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska cod quotas and the quotas will be down dramatically.

The data is still preliminary, but a reduction in the catch of Bering Sea Pacific cod for 2018 is all but inevitable. The question is how much, and an early look at survey numbers indicate that it will be about a third lower than 2017.

The reduction is not as stark as estimates for the Pacific cod Gulf of Alaska Total Allowable Catch, where preliminary data suggest three sequential year classes of P-cod did not survive to ages 2 or 3 due to conditions brought about by the warm ocean conditions event known as The Blob in 2014-2016. Biologists are estimating that once the data has been modeled and been peer reviewed, there may be half to two thirds less than last year.

At last week’s North Pacific Council meeting, the Science and Statistical Committee, a key scientific advisory group to the panel, chose the lower of two options for setting the Over Fishing Limit and the Allowable Biological Catch levels. Both of these levels are higher than the Total Allowable Catches that are set by the Council at their December meeting.

This year, the SSC recommended 215,374 mt for the OFL and 161,530 mt for the ABC for P-cod, down from 284,000 mt and 239,000 mt respectively.

With that, the Total Allowable Catch was set at 223,704 mt in December of 2016.

The SSC commented: “When a major stock declines precipitously, it is potentially extremely costly in terms of fishing revenues, and the impacts on the fishing communities dependent on those catches. These costs are exacerbated in the Gulf of Alaska fisheries because much of these fisheries consist of small entities (as compared to the eastern Bering Sea fleet), with comparatively limited financial resources.

“Had there been a Gulf-wide survey in 2016, the impending decline in the Pacific cod stocks would have been identified, and measures could have been taken to lessen the impact of this decline on the industry. The SSC strongly recommends that full surveys be conducted annually in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea given the huge monetary and social costs of having a major, unexpected decline in a fishery.”

Surveys are done every two years. The final TAC will be decided at the December 2017 Council meeting.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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