Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Looking good in the Gulf

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council today kicked off a weeklong meeting in Anchorage, and as always at its December session, the panel's top order of business is setting groundfish quotas for the coming year.

We've already heard a lot about the flagship Bering Sea pollock fishery, and how the scientists are recommending a quota no greater than this past season's 815,000 metric tons.

That's a mountain of fish sticks, but it's a sorry quota compared to a few years ago when the harvest was nearly twice as big.

Because of its status as one of the world's largest fisheries, Bering Sea pollock tends to get all the media love.

But groundfish is important for fishermen and ports in the Gulf of Alaska, too, and the outlook in those waters is much brighter.

Government scientists are recommending an "acceptable biological catch" for pollock of 84,745 tons, which is a 70 percent increase from this year's ABC.

As for Pacific cod, an even more valuable groundfish species in the Gulf, the recommended ABC is 79,100 tons, a 43 percent increase.

Exciting stuff.

But setting quotas isn't the hottest item on the council's agenda for this meeting.

The real fireworks are reserved for what's known as the Gulf of Alaska cod sector split.

What's that, you ask?

The council wants to address what's become quite a war for lucrative cod out of Kodiak and other Gulf ports.

To simmer down the competition, the council at this meeting aims to divide the cod among the different kinds of fishing vessels, which include trawlers, longliners, pot boats and jiggers.

Sound simple? Not.

This tough part is finding a fair way to split the fish among sectors, especially when each is screaming for a bigger piece of the pie.

One fisherman, Craig Cochran of Newport, Ore., summed up the hopes of many in a letter to the council:

"I would ask that this not become a food fight, but a rational decision based on the true history of each sector," he wrote.


Anonymous said...

To me that says it all, of Newport, Oregon. What really needs to happen are protective measures put in place to protect the communities and residents. In the near future Observers in all sectors will Identify the real clean fisherman and maybe they can be rewarded with quota rollover provisions. That way the whole Industry thrives.

Anonymous said...

The problem with catch history/sector splits is that it enshrines the dirtiest fishing practices forever. Even those rare boats who want to switch to cleaner practices aren't allowed.