KODIAK, Alaska — Kodiak researchers will study why Pacific cod stocks have been shrinking over the past few years.
The Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center researchers will collect information about the habitat use, diet and energetics of juvenile cod, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Tuesday. The hypothesis is that warmer temperatures increase the metabolic rates of young cod and, subsequently, their food sources don’t supply enough energy.
The hypothesis stems from research that suggests the stocks’ decline was caused by a mass of warm water that appeared in the Pacific from 2014-16.
In October, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey reported a 71 percent decline in Pacific cod abundance in the gulf since 2015 and an 83 percent decline since 2013.
As a result, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council announced an 80 percent reduction to the Gulf of Alaska cod quota for 2018. Both the city of Kodiak and Kodiak Island Borough are attempting to have the situation declared a fisheries disaster in an effort to get federal relief funding.
“The status of Pacific cod is probably the biggest fishery issue facing Kodiak right now,” said Mike Litzow, a member of the research faculty with the University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries department at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
The study is part of a broader initiative to seek funding to continue sampling in future winters. Litzow said studies like this only become valuable when done over a number of years.
“It’ll give them more of a heads-up. So they can say: in three years you’re likely to see a lot of fish, or you’re likely to not see a lot of fish,” Litzow said.
Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror, http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com