Kodiak representatives look at possible consequences of cod declines

Vessel in Kodiak. (Photo by Gruscana / Flickr)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Cod declines could have a devastating effect on Kodiak harvesters and processors. That’s according to community representatives who attended the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting this month.

At that meeting, the council decreased the Gulf of Alaska Pacific cod quotas by 80 percent. That’s to address the sharply declining number of cod, which scientists say may be due to what’s called the blob, a trend of warmer water temperatures that moved into the gulf roughly three years ago.

Now, Kodiak stakeholders are looking at how drastic the aftereffects will be for the community.

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Fisheries analyst Heather McCarty spoke with the Kodiak Fisheries Work Group about the cod situation at its meeting this month. In an interview with KMXT soon after, she said she thinks the cod decline will be “devastating,” and not just in the short-term.

“The scientists are saying, based on what they saw of the year classes and so on, that they anticipate that this could last up to certainly to 2020, maybe even to 2021, and so this kind of low resource situation is looking at us for the next few years. It’s almost like a double, triple, quadruple disaster because it’s not just one year.”

Julie Bonney with the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, a member organization for trawlers and processors, also spoke with the Kodiak Fisheries Work Group at its meeting. She says the cod decline will decrease revenue for all ground fish gear types and make it more difficult for processors to fill their market demands.

She says trawlers may try to balance the loss with pollock, and the rockfish program could give the community a boost.

“So, they have several things that they can do, but they’re not gonna be able to offset the loss of cod revenue overall.”

Bonney says neither pinks nor halibut seem promising for 2018.

“The halibut quotas look like they’re coming down too, and then from a Kodiak perspective we’re not expecting pink salmon to be that great, so there’s gonna to be some less of revenue for those participants, and I don’t see how they can make it all up.”

The parent year for the 2018 pink salmon season was 2016, which was a disastrous season for pinks in the gulf, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting that 2018 may also be a less than steller return.

At its meeting, the Fisheries Work Group spoke about several possible moves forward. One was to seek a disaster declaration through a joint city and borough letter to the governor’s office. Another was to do outreach to make sure the public is aware of the wide-ranging consequences of the cod decline.

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