A proposal to make the Aleutian Islands subdistrict an exclusive registration area for Pacific cod during the state waters season is slated for consideration when the Alaska Board of Fisheries meets in Seward Dec. 10-13.
Proposal 278 put forward by the city of Adak, Alaska, and the Adak Community Development Corp. notes that a shore-based processor at Adak began processing Aleutian Islands Pacific cod in 2017. Since, effort has increased and the guideline harvest level has been fully harvested.
According to the proposal, declines in Pacific cod abundance in the Gulf of Alaska have redistributed state-waters fishing efforts away from fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands. This change has boosted effort and competition among harvesters and reduced season lengths in both the Dutch Harbor and Aleutian Islands subdistricts.
In recent years, the Dutch Harbor subdistrict has closed prior to the Aleutian Islands subdistrict, allowing for an influx of Dutch Harbor pot boats to enter the Aleutian Islands fishery mid-season, creating a race for fish and increased competition for Aleutians fishermen.
There are eight state waters (guideline harvest level) Pacific cod fisheries: Eastern Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Chignik, South Alaska Peninsula, Dutch Harbor subdistrict and the Aleutian Islands subdistrict. Currently only the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands subdistrict are designated as nonexclusive fisheries.
Golden Harvest Alaska Seafood, which opened its doors three years ago in Adak, buys Pacific cod from approximately half a dozen small boat (under 60 feet) fishermen, and moves large volumes of fresh and once frozen cod fillets out of Adak by air mostly to domestic markets.
“We are using 100 percent American labor and doing most of the value-added processing in Alaska,” said Steve Minor, a Washington state consultant to Golden Harvest. From January through April the processing facility employs about 350 people, many of them housed in old military housing rehabilitated by the Aleut Corp. and leased by Golden Harvest. After the A season, the plant provides work for 80 fulltime employees.
Golden Harvest is working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to develop other small fisheries, including crab, halibut, sablefish and the pink salmon seine fishery, in addition to dive fisheries for sea urchins and geoducks.
The effort is focused on keeping the city of Adak ––population just over 300 people– open, including its schools, “but none of this works without Pacific cod, because that is the big fishery,” Minor said. “The state waters cod fishery is a small boat fishery, Alaska boats and these guys have worked hard to help us develop these markets,” he said. “All we are trying to do is get equal treatment for them. This year we are the only fishery with a cap on the (Pacific cod) quota of 15 million pounds.”
The fisheries board will also address several dozen other proposals regarding Lower Cook Inlet finfish. The meeting will take place at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center.
Proposals are available for review online at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.meetinginfo&date=12-10-2019&meeting=seward#,fixed,,14