Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Bering Sea Harvesters Hard at Work


Groundfish fisheries under way in the bering sea and Aleutian Islands harvested thousands of metric tons of fish through early March, with pollock vessels and Pacific cod trawl catcher vessels showing particular strength.

“Fishing has been excellent with most boats due to finish early for A season,” said Pat Shanahan, program director for the Genuine Alaska pollock Producers.

“Some producers report fish are smaller this season, which puts pressure on delivering some fillet product forms, while others report normal fish sizes,” she said.

Demand for Alaska pollock surimi in Japan and North America is strong, Shanahan said, due to improvements in the quality of finished surimi seafood products and the low production of tropical surimi.

Demand for Alaska pollock fillet block in the European market meanwhile is flat, she said, due to higher than normal inventories and delayed sales due to ownership changes in a major retail supplier. In the US, market demand for the same product is moderate and similar to the past several years, with higher than normal demand for deep-skin and mince blocks, she said.

Catch reports compiled by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Region through March 5th show the AFA (American Fisheries Act) mother ships in the bering sea with a total catch of 32,775 metric tons, or 28 percent of a quota of 115,776 metric tons, with 83,001 metric tons still to be harvested.

The AFA inshore deliveries of 138,424 metric tons, or 24 percent of a 578,880 metric ton quota, leave 440,456 metric tons to be harvested, while AFA catcher processors have caught a total of 107,652 metric tons, or 23 percent of their 463,104 metric ton quota, with 355,452 metric tons remaining.

Western Alaska’s Community Development Quota groups, who are allocated a percentage of all BSAI quotas for groundfish under amendments to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, had a total pollock catch of 48,109 metric tons through March 5, or 35 percent of their 135,900 metric ton quota, with 87,791 metric tons still to catch.

In the Pacific cod fisheries, BSAI catcher vessels over 60 feet using pot gear had a cumulative harvest of 5,100 metric tons, or 27 percent of their quota of 18,798 metric tons, leaving 13,698 metric tons to catch.

“Usually in that fishery a lot of boats come to the grounds right away on Jan. 1 and stay until they get their quota, but last year and this year, a lot of them went and did crab first, so we got about half of the cod fleeting in the beginning,” said Krista Milani, who is the federal fisheries resource management specialist for sustainable fisheries at Dutch Harbor. “And now they are coming back to do the cod fishery.”

Milani said last year the over 60-foot catcher vessels using pot gear did this because almost all of these boats also have snow crab quota, and with the snow crab quota so high, the cod was secondary for them.

“This year they got wrapped up with tanner crab and wanted to make sure they got tanner crab done before they did cod,” she said.

The years 2015 and 2016 are the first in a while where they didn’t all show up when the cod season opened, she said. “This year some boats came on Jan. 1, others and February. We have had participants coming and going on a weekly basis.” For the first six weeks it was five to 10 boats, sometimes down to three boats, and 10 to 11 boats is the most seen so far, she said.

The catch processor pot fishery for Pacific cod closed on Jan. 29, with a total catch of 1,704 metric tons, with four vessels fishing it, and will reopen on Sept. 1.

The BSAI under 60 foot hook and line and pot cod fishery closed on Feb. 5, with a catch of 6,163 metric tons, or 99 percent of the 6,226 metric ton quota harvested, Melani said.

The cod catcher processor hook and line fleet has harvested 32,694 metric tons, which is 30 percent of its 108,983 metric ton quota, and has another 76,289 metric tons to harvest.

The BSAI catcher vessel trawl cod fishery meanwhile has taken 33,277 metric tons, or 67 percent of its 49,638 metric ton quota, with 16,361 metric tons yet to catch. AFA catcher processors in the Pacific cod fishery have taken 1,528 metric tons, or 30 percent of their 5,166 metric ton quota, leaving 3,638 metric tons to harvest.

Amendment 80 catcher processors, fishing under a fisheries cooperative program implemented in 2008, harvested 9,786 metric tons of cod, or 33 percent of their 30,097 metric ton quota, through March 5, and still have 20,311 metric tons to go.

The cod fishery for catcher hook-and-line vessels over 60 feet has a quota this year of 448 metric tons, but there has been no harvest and nobody ever participates in this fishery, Melani said.

BSAI rock sole harvesters have taken 15,937 metric tons of their 61,840 metric ton quota, and have 45,903 metric tons, or 74 percent to go, compared to a rock sole CDQ harvest of 1,177 metric tons, or 16 percent of their 7,410 metric ton harvest, with 6,233 metric tons remaining.

In the BSAI yellowfin sole fishery, the fleet has delivered 17,869 metric tons, or 13 percent of its 133,057 metric ton allocation, and may still harvest another 115,188 metric tons, while just 707 metric tons, or 4 percent of the yellowfin sole CDQ allocation has been delivered, leaving another 15,236 metric tons to harvest.

bering sea harvests of other rockfish, including CDQ efforts, now total 26 metric tons, or just 8 percent of that 325 metric ton quota.

Pacific Ocean Perch, including the CDQ effort, have reached just 39 metric tons, or 1 percent of the 6,818 metric ton quota.

bering sea sablefish trawl efforts have landed 11 metric tons, or 2 percent of a quota of 567 metric tons, and the CDQ sector of the sablefish trawl sector has only harvested 1 metric ton, or 3 percent of its allocation of 50 metric tons.

In the Aleutian Islands, other rockfish, including the CDQ effort, has yielded a harvest of 47 metric tons, or 9 percent of that 555 metric ton quota.

In the Aleutian Islands, harvests of Pacific Ocean perch in the eastern, central and western sectors, including CDQ efforts have so far been minimal.

The Atka mackerel eastern trawl fishery has done far better, delivering 7,225 metric tons or 30 percent of its 24,328 metric ton quota, leaving another 17,103 metric tons to deliver. The Atka mackerel eastern sector CDQ fishery meanwhile has harvested 1,032 metric tons, or 34 percent of its 3,050 metric ton quota, and may harvest another 2,018 metric tons of that fish.

Also in the Aleutians, the Atka mackerel central trawl fishery has taken 2,629 metric tons, or 18 percent of its 14,213 metric ton quota and has another 11,584 metric tons to fish. While the Atka mackerel central sector CDQ group has taken just 12 metric tons, or 1 percent of its 1,712 metric ton allocation.

The western trawl sector for Atka mackerel in the Aleutian had taken 1,284 metric tons, or 14 percent of its 9,337 metric ton quota, and may harvest another 8,053 metric tons of that fish.

The Aleutians Pacific cod CDQ harvest likewise shows a harvest to date of 35 metric tons, or just 3 percent of the 1,374 metric ton quota.

The Alaska Region, sustainable Fisheries catch accounting from National Marine Fisheries Service also noted that the incidental catch of pollock in the Aleutians, including those in CDQ fisheries, totaled 99 metric tons, or 4 percent of that 2,400 metric ton allowable harvest. There has been no harvest to date of directed pollock fisheries in the Aleutians, including CDQ groups.


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