By Margaret Bauman
The 2011 allowable harvests for Pollock and Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands got a big boost from the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, rising 54 percent and 35 percent respectively.
That’s 1.25 million metric tons of Pollock, up from 813,000 metric tons in 2010, and 227,950 tons of Pacific cod, up from 168,780 a year earlier.
Frank Kelty, president of the Marine Conservation Alliance in Juneau, said the MSC fully supported the council’s recommendations, which were made at the council’s December meeting in Anchorage.
“For more than 30 years, strict annual catch limits for the federal fisheries off the coast of Alaska have protected our clear, pristine waters and abundant ecosystem, which continues to feed tens of millions of people throughout the world,” Kelty said.
The groundfish harvest limits are established annually, based on advice from the Alaska Fisheries science Center, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and other agencies and universities, as well as the council’s scientific and statistical committee and advisory panel, and public testimony.
Other major species for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands include in the annual harvest allowances include yellowfin sole, 196,000 tons, down 10.5 percent; Atka mackerel, 53,080 tons, down 28 percent, and Pacific Ocean perch, 24,700 tons, up 31 percent.
The council found that the status of BSAI groundfish stocks continues to appear favorable, and that no groundfish stocks are currently subjected to overfishing, and that many stocks are rebounding due to increased recruitment in recent years.
The council adopted total allowable catch limits equal to the maximum allowed under the 2 million ton optimum yield cap for the BSAI groundfish.
The council also adopted prohibited species catch limits for Pacific halibut, crab and herring for 2011 and 2012.
The council noted that the 2010 bottom trawl survey biomass estimate for Pollock was 3.75 million tons, up 64 percent from the 2009 estimate, but still below average for the 1987-2010 time series. The estimate from the acoustic-trawl survey was 2.32 million tons, up 151 percent from the 2009 estimate, but still below average for the 1979-2010 time series, the council said.
For the Gulf of Alaska, the council approved a harvest of 96,215 tons of Pollock, up 13.5 percent from 84,745 tons a year ago; 65,100 tons of Pacific cod, up 9 percent from 59,563 tons in 2011; 43,000 tons of arrowtooth flounder, the same as 2010; 16,997 tons of Pacific perch, down 3 percent from 17,584 in 2010; and 11,290 tons of sablefish, up 9 percent over the 10,370 tons allowed for harvest last year.
The council noted that abundances of Pacific cod, Dover sole, flathead sole, arrowtooth flounder, Pacific ocean perch, rougheye and blackspotted rockfish, northern rockfish, and dusky rockfish are above target stock size, but that abundances of Pollock and sablefish are below target sock size.
The target biolmass levels for other deep-water flatfish, shallow water flatfish, rex sole, shortraker rockfish, demersal shelf rockfish, other pelagic shelf rockfish, other slope rockfish, thornhead rockfish, Atka mackerel, skates, sculpins, squid, octopus and sharks are unknown.