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Small boat cod fishery to open Sept. 1

August 28th, 2015 | Molly Dischner Print this article   Email this article  

Summer fishing in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands is winding down, and smaller catcher vessels will have access to an extra 1,700 metric tons of Pacific cod this fall after some quota went unused by other fleets.

Krista Milani, from the National Marine Fisheries Service, said her agency typically reallocates unused Pacific cod quota to the smaller fleet toward the end of each summer.

Catcher vessels less than 60 feet in length using hook and line gear are only allocated quota for the A season, which begins in January each year, so they are usually among the first to receive reallocations, Milani said.

Beginning Sept. 1, catcher vessels less than 60 feet using hook and line gear or pot gear can catch about 1,318 metric tons of cod transferred from the jig fleet, and 424 metric tons transferred from catcher vessels longer than 60 feet. The agency announced those transfers on Aug. 20.

Milani said the allocations are not unusual. For the past several years, there's been minimal participation in the Pacific cod fishery from catcher vessels longer than 60 feet using hook and line gear, Milani said. There was some effort in the jig fleet, but the fleet doesn't usually catch its full allocation.

Milani said the agency doesn't know what effort in the fall cod fishery will look like, as there's no registration requirement. Typically, she said, boats start fishing cod as salmon and halibut fishing winds down.

Hook and line catcher processors had a pretty average summer for cod catches, while the trawl fleet saw a little more participation than usual, Milani said.

From June 10 through Aug. 15, the trawl fleet caught about 2,874 metric tons, or about 39 percent of their allocation, according to NMFS' catch report. The catcher processors caught 17,582 metric tons during the same period, or about 33 percent of the quota.

Cod fishing this summer was limited, but squid catches were up.

NMFS announced in late July that it would prohibit retention of squid in the BSAI management area because the total allowable catch had been reached.

Squid is caught incidentally by vessels targeting other species. Last year, fishermen were able to voluntarily change their fishing to avoid squid going to nonretention status, but this year they had a couple hot weeks and hit the limit, Milani said.

Milani didn't know exactly why the catch was up, noting that it tends to vary from year to year. Possibilities include more squid out there to be caught, or slight changes to fishing locations that resulted in higher squid catches.


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