Bering Sea Alaska pollock, flatfish TACs could get boosts from likely cod cut

Bering Sea Alaska pollock, flatfish TACs could get boosts from likely cod cut

The total allowance catches (TACs) for Alaska pollock, yellowfin sole and other flatfish in the Bering Sea could be increased for 2018 for US fishing firms, given the big cut expected in the quota for Pacific cod.

Improving prices for pollock mean the industry is keen to get additional quota in 2018, sources told Undercurrent News, as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) meeting starts Monday in Anchorage, Alaska, to decide on the TACs for various species in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska for next year.

With cod set to come down, there will be room for other species to increase to take the Bering Sea fishery back up to the 2 million-metric-ton cap level, sources said. Also, the 2018 ABC for pollock in the Gulf of Alaska fishery is down, so an uptick in the Bering Sea could offset this

“There could be an increase in the [Bering Sea] pollock TAC, to offset the drop in cod,” James Ianelli, a fisheries biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said.

The stock situation with cod and the improved market from pollock, as well as the news Russia is cutting its 2018 TAC by 110,000t, creates a different dynamic at the 2017 NPFMC meeting.

“Usually, cod is king at the negotiations, as the value is high and also you have various sectors involved, such as trawl and longline. Also, in previous years, there has not been a big push for more pollock TAC, as the market has been bad. However, this is turning around now,” Ianelli told Undercurrent.

Also, yellowfin sole, rock sole and Atka mackerel -- all caught by the Amendment 80 flatfish trawler fleet -- are species that could be increased, said Ianelli, who will present some of the analyses at the council meeting on Dec. 4. These results then feed into the recommendations from the scientific and statistical committee, or SSC, to the NPFMC for TAC levels.

Due to the likely cuts for cod, sources are suggesting around 20,000-25,000t could be added to the Bering Sea pollock quota.

The allowable biological catch (ABC) for 2018 recommended by the scientific plan team for the groundfish fisheries for pollock in the Bering Sea is 2,592,000t (see below), compared to 2,800,000 in 2017. In 2017, the TAC was set at 1,345,000t.

“For pollock, there was a very strong year class in 2012 that means the Bering Sea stock is strong and catch limits could be increased,” said Ianelli, who will present the scientific plan team’s findings on Monday in Anchorage.

The amount the pollock and flatfish species TACs are increased depends on what the council decides to do with the TAC for cod, given the latest science.

For Pacific cod in the Bering Sea (see below), the ABC for 2018 recommended by the scientific plan team has been slashed to 188,000t, from 239,000t in 2017. In 2017, the TAC for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea was set at 223,704t from that ABC, with the catch at 196,761t, according to data from the plan team. Also, the team is recommending an ABC of 170,000t for 2019, although another stock assessment will be done next year.

The team recommends that the ABC be reduced to 188,000t “due to concerns related to the dramatic declines in the EBS [Eastern Bering Sea] shelf survey index, recent poor environmental conditions, lack of incoming recruitment, and recent small size-at-age of young Pacific cod”, states the official stock assessment document.

Also, a stock survey in the north Bering Sea from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, which had not been done since 2010, showed poor results, Ianelli said.

“There were few Pacific cod in this area in 2010, but a lot more this year. This has caused some uncertainty, as it's not clear why this is. They may have come from Russia, or moved up from the US fishing areas following food,” he told Undercurrent. “If so, it's uncertain if they will go back. If they came from these waters and don't go back, then it would impact the stocks that are being fished [by the US fleet].”

Quoted from Undercurrent News