New catch limits mean more cod for small boats

Oct 30, 2018

Small boats fishing for cod in state waters are getting more of the Bering Sea quota, thanks to a recent Alaska Board of Fisheries decision. Some stakeholders, including the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, are voicing concern.

Bristol Bay Times & Dutch Harbor Fisherman: The small boat Dutch Harbor Pacific pot cod state waters fishery got more fish earlier this month, when the Alaska Board of Fisheries raised the catch limit from 6.4 percent to 8 percent of the overall Bering Sea quota, despite the opposition of the big boat fleets of crabbers, trawlers, factory trawlers, and freezer longliners.

 

The big boats complained of losing out at a time when cod stocks are decreasing, and crab quotas are way down too.

"This would be a double hit to those user groups whose quotas are already being cut," said Thomas Mack, president and CEO of The Aleut Corporation, in written comments opposing increases to 8, 10, or 20 percent.

The top executives of two community development quota groups said in a joint letter that they feared that for the small boats that would mean less fish for the CDQ regional organizations which own factory trawlers and freezer longliners, "potentially having an adverse impact on tribes in Western Alaska," according to Norman Van Vactor, president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, and Ragnar Alstrom, executive director of the Yukon Delta Fisheries Association.

The Under Sixty Cod Harvesters supported the increase for the growing fleet of boats under 60 feet long, saying it primarily benefits Alaska residents with low-bycatch gear, but local fisherman from Unalaska and Akutan are upset, saying some of those boats aren't really that small, known as Super 8s, that can pack 250,000 pounds compared to 50,000 pounds for traditional vessels.

But other locals like it.

Three Unalaska residents supported the increased quota for small boats, Roger Rowland and Trevor Shaishnikoff of the fishing vessel Commitment, and Rick Fehst of the F/V April Lane. Another supporter was a frequent visitor during the Dutch Harbor summer herring season, Dan Veerhusen, of the F/V Taurus, of Homer, in written comments to the fish board, meeting on cod issues on Oct. 18 and 19 in Anchorage.

The Bering Sea crab fleet weighed in in a big way opposing the small boats, collectively with a letter from Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers and individually with numerous crab fishermen and boat owners signing the same individually-submitted form letter.

The crab boats also participate in pot cod fisheries, and ABSC noted that with reduced crab quotas, the boats are facing yet another cut in fishing opportunity with the loss of cod quota to the small boats. The duplicate letter of opposition was submitted by representatives of Aleutian Spray LLC, Scandies Rose, and New Venture and others.

The Bering Sea pollock factory trawlers fleet also sent a lengthy report opposing the increase on conservation grounds, from At-sea Processors Association Executive Director Stephanie Madsen, citing a threat to young cod in near-shore waters.

Madsen said a baited underwater camera deployed earlier this year in Kodiak showed small cod attracted to the device, indicating that giving more fish to the small boats inshore could have an adverse impact on future generations of cod in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.

The Freezer Longliner Coalition, representing 27 active vessels and 11 companies, opposed the quota increases, and Executive Director Chad See said some of the Super 8s carry as much fish as boats twice as long.

The Ground Fish Forum, representing Amendment 80 factory trawlers, was also opposed, as was United Catcher Boats, representing trawlers delivering to shore plants.

All the proposed increases were opposed by the Unalaska Dutch Harbor Fish and Game Advisory Committee, complaining that small local boats are getting aced out by the high-capacity, wide and deep, 58-foot-long vessels known as Super 8s.

Now, the Unalaska Native Fisherman's Association, the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska, and the Akutan Fisherman's Association want a separate federal fishery based on weight, not boat length, and are appealing to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for help on the federal level.

The fish board rejected a proposal endorsed by the Unalaska committee for trip limits of 150,000 pounds of cod, to limit the catching power of the Super 8s.

Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com.