Kodiak’s pollock fishery opens to trawlers Thursday, Jan. 20; although, the 45 or so vessels from Kodiak’s fleet won’t be heading out until February 4. That’s to limit bycatch and hold out for better fishing conditions, according to Julie Bonnie, the executive director of the Groundfish Data Bank – and there’s another reason.
“And then obviously COVID is always in the back of everyone’s minds,” she said. “So, we try to develop self management measures so we can address outbreaks both on the vessels and in the processing plants.”
COVID-19 outbreaks shut down two processing plants in Dutch Harbor and another in Akutan last season. Kodiak didn’t experience any pandemic-related issues
Pollock is the white, flaky fish frequently used for fish sticks and filet o’ fish sandwiches, and as fisheries go, it’s a big deal, according to Bonnie.
“In terms of Kodiak, it’s the largest fishery in terms of volume,” she said. “Between the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, pollock is the largest food fishery in the world and the largest fishery in the United States.”
There’s 129,000 metric tons of pollock allowed for this year’s catch. That’s 26 percent more than last year and the year before. This is the first of two seasons for this year’s fishery — it closes at the end of May if the quota isn’t hit before then. The next season starts in September.