Kodiak Island Borough Assembly support changes to Chinook by-catch limits

King Salmon can cause some commercial fisheries to close early if too many are caught. (Photo by Ingrid Taylar/Flickr)

Mitch Borden/KMXT

King salmon are causing some trouble for Kodiak’s trawl fleet. The problem, too many are being caught as by-catch.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is currently looking at changing the chinook prohibited species caps for the Gulf of Alaska for non-pollock catcher vessels in the trawl sector. The purpose of the adjustment would be to reduce the risk of fishery closures.

If too many kings are caught in certain commercial fisheries, they’ll be shut down. In 2015, the Pacific cod and flatfish trawl fishery were closed because of this and it cost Kodiak millions of dollars. The economic impacts of these closures on Kodiak is why at a special meeting last night, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly voted to send a letter to the chairman of the council supporting a change to the limits.

In their letter, the assembly points out that most of the kings caught by trawlers aren’t from the northwest Gulf of Alaska. Instead, it claims the vast majority of Chinook originate in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the American Northwest. The letter says even a small adjustment to the cap will benefit Kodiak and other communities in the region.

The assembly also highlights in its letter that 60 percent of the fish brought in to Kodiak annually are groundfish, which are the fisheries that are most affected by the chinook limit. Paddy O’Donnell, who’s a trawl fisherman, told the council they need to protect the trawlers for the good of the region.

“Fish is the economic engine, the driving factor here that keeps us all in jobs and keeps the lights on. And without it, whether you like trawl or don’t like trawl, you guys wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t have your sandwich shops or whatever else other people have for businesses would not be happening.”

The assembly hopes increasing the number of kings that can be caught as by-catch in non-pollock trawl fisheries will provide some economic stability for Kodiak’s seafood industry.

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