KODIAK, Alaska — The Gulf of Alaska cod quota for 2018 was reduced by 80 percent compared to last year.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council announced the reduction. And in response, the Kodiak Fisheries Workgroup is making efforts to have the steep decline in cod declared a fisheries disaster, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Monday.
Kodiak officials also said they will send a letter to Gov. Bill Walker to ask for federal disaster relief funds to alleviate the severe economic impact the decline could have on the region.
In October, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey reported a 71 percent decline in Pacific cod abundance in the gulf since 2015.
Research suggests the decline was caused by the mass of warm water in the Pacific in 2014 through 2016, known as “the blob.”
The higher temperature raised the metabolism of cod while reducing available food, resulting in increased fish deaths, the management council said. The warm water also affected cod egg production and larval survival.
With the severe population decline, the focus of management of cod in the Gulf of Alaska shifted to maintaining the spawning stock and increasing the chances of the fishery’s future viability, the management council said.
“I don’t think we even caught 50 percent of the available quota last year,” said Julie Bonney, executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. “There’s strong consensus in the fishing community that the quotas needed to go down to preserve the spawning stock of cod.”
Bonney said if there’s a large cod recruitment event in 2017, it is likely that 2021 will be the earliest year that cod could be commercially viable again.
“This is projected to persist for multiple years; it’s not a one-year off,” Bonney said. “It touches so many people. It’s going to be a persistent economic loss.”
Nathaniel Nichols, Kodiak’s area management biologist for the Department of Fish and Game, said the quota drop was not as severe in other areas, which could result in fishers taking their vessels elsewhere for the season.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com