Fisheries Work Group reacts to cod decline and quota reduction

Vessel in Kodiak. (Photo by Gruscana / Flickr)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Gulf of Alaska is seeing a Pacific cod decline just a year after a disastrous pink salmon season, and it has Kodiak representatives looking at the next steps for the community.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recently decided to reduce the Gulf of Alaska cod quota by 80 percent to compensate for the almost 70 percent decline.

The feeling around the table at the Kodiak Fisheries Work Group meeting Wednesday night was that this could be another fishery disaster, as with the pink season in 2016, which earned a federal disaster designation.

So far, that disaster declaration has failed to bring in funds for recovery, although it’s still in progress.

Work group chairman John Whiddon said that fisheries declaration is more likely to be bundled in with another, larger issue.

“The understanding I’ve always had in talking to our legislators and even the congressionals is that our pink salmon disaster, as dramatic as it was for us, wasn’t big enough to catch people’s attention, so you had to have a hurricane, a natural disaster to tack onto it to get the money flowing.”

The City of Kodiak and Kodiak Island Borough are now drafting a letter for the cod decline, which will end up before Governor Bill Walker.

Whiddon explained how timing sets this request apart from the letter the city and borough sent regarding the pink salmon season.

“Well, there’s different criteria for declaring a declaration of disaster. One of them is after the fact, but then there’s also one that’s prior to the event and has to meet certain thresholds, and the 80 percent reduction in quota over the five year average, which in this case is where we are, gets us to the level where we can actually get this letter out prior to the prosecution of the fisheries, so we meet that threshold.”

He said the goal is to send the letter by the end of the year.

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