There are four federally managed pollock seasons in the Gulf of Alaska. Currently, the last one of 2017 is underway. According to Josh Keaton, an inseason manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this year’s pollock fishery has gone relatively smoothly.
“I think it’s an okay pollock year. It’s better than it has been in the prior couple years.”
The reason this year is better than the past few, Keaton says, is because fishermen are having an easier time finding pollock that are big enough to sell to processors.
“So the pollock needs to be a certain size to be able to be marketable and in the past couple years they were having some challenges finding those marketable size fish. They were finding a lot of fish, they just weren’t finding the ones of values.”
The fishing area immediately outside of Kodiak, district 630, filled its catch limit during season C, which was the pollock season open from the end of August to the beginning of October. Around 19,000 metric tons of pollock were pulled from the waters near Kodiak. Keaton says the area is projected to reach its catch limit again at the end of the current season.
The Shelikof Strait region, district 620, isn’t doing as well. It only filled 42 percent of its quota during the last season. It’s not expected to meet it again this opening. The problem is chinook salmon. Keaton says fishermen have to actively avoid catching them because of restrictions on how many kings can be caught as bycatch. He says the process can slow fishing down and that’s probably what’s driving the low numbers in the Shelikof Strait.
Since the Shelikoff region didn’t meet its quota, other regions are allowed to catch more fish. Keaton says that’s because pollock don’t stay in one place.
“I like to say fish have tails and they swim. pollock are open water fish, they don’t follow lines in the ocean. So a large part of the pollock population is what we consider one stock. It’s all the same stock, unlike a salmon river in which the stock may be specific to that river.”
Time will tell how well the last pollock fishery of the year ends up. Fishermen will finish 2017’s final season on November 1st.