As expected, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has voted to drop the Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod quota by 80 percent, from the 2017 total allowable catch of 64,442 metric tons to a TAC of 13,096 mt.
The heart-stopping drop was at the high end of earlier predicted cuts, and is related to two-year classes not surviving the high ocean temperatures that existed during 2015 and 2016 in the North Pacific, dubbed by climatologists as the “warm blob.”
The TACs set last week at the Council meeting are the most severe drops in years, and part of mixed news for GOA bottom fish stocks.
The Bering Sea P-cod TAC went down 15 percent, while the BSAI pollock TAC for 2018 was raised by 19,000 mt to 1,383,841 mt.
The sablefish TAC for 2018 was increased nearly 15 percent to 3,452 mt, joined by increases in Pacific Ocean perch, up nearly 5,000 mt to 74,722 mt for 2018; northern rockfish, up 22 percent to 6,100 mt; Atka mackerel’s TAC increased 9 percent to 142,000 mt, and other bottom fish including Pacific Ocean Perch also went up.
The Council has the choice of setting the quotas at a Total Allowable Catch or the Allowable Biological Catch, a number which the Council cannot exceed.
Council member Buck Laukitis said that they set the TAC for arrowtooth flounder below the ABC because of the relatively high number of halibut bycatch in the fishery.
While Laukitis stressed that he is not a spokesman for the NPFMC, he did say that GOA cod fishermen should talk to fishery managers and other fishermen about the upcoming season.
“The basic word is major changes to cod, very grim, and people need to start planning because whatever you were doing last year, it’s not going to be the same,” he said.
“Take a hard look, talk to managers, try to figure out what your sector looks like. There’s some people who really don’t know how managers are approaching things; they’re not going to open some seasons, there’s going to be short seasons, and if you’re hiring crew and pulling pots off the beach or expecting to go (somewhere) and have a month-long season you’re going to be disappointed.”
He added that managers are not going to want to predict might happen in different scenarios.
“We’re in a whole new world,” Laukitis said.
Cristy Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org