Archives for November 2016

Gulf of AK groundfish catches to decline 20% for 2017; Sablefish is up in all regions

Fish Radio
Groundfish catches face 20% cut in Gulf of Alaska
December 1, 2016

Groundfish trawlers Credit: fisherynation.com

Groundfish trawlers
Credit: fisherynation.com

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Cuts are in store for the Gulf’s biggest groundfish catches.  More after this —

Get a fish tech degree on the go with fully loaded iPad classes from the University of Alaska/Southeast. No internet required! Head for a career in Alaska’s largest industry.  Contact Reid Brewer at UAS Sitka     907-747-7799

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  We reported this week that most Bering Sea fish stocks are booming, but that’s not the case the Gulf.  

“Overall, about a 20 percent decrease. If you take all of the ABCs and sum them across all species the whole thing is done by about 60,000 tons. That 60,000 just about equates to the decrease in pollock and p- cod with about 50,000 of it coming from pollock and 10,000 from p cod.”   

Jim Armstrong is the North Pacific Council’s Plan Coordinator for Gulf of Alaska groundfish, where nearly 130 different fish are managed when various complexes, like rockfish, are broken out.  Pollock catches for this year were increased by 30 percent, but that’s not the case moving forward.

“It’s not going to be an increase this year.”

Armstrong says the Gulf pollock fishery appears to be sustained by a single strong 2012 year class and good recruitment   doesn’t appear to be coming down the pike.

 “Pollock is a bit worrisome because of the dominant year class. When the stock assessment was presented to the plan team it doesn’t appear it’s being followed by an even average year class. So we may be seeing that go down until another strong year class comes up and we haven’t seen that yet.”  

Warmer Gulf waters, Armstrong says, are the likely cause of the downturn –

“What that tends to do – we have zooplankton that in cold years have a lot more lipids and are more nutritionally valuable to pollock and we need those years to create those big year classes”   

Meanwhile, next year’s pollock catch will likely be around 200,000 metric tons. Cod catches could also be down slightly, based on results of new stock modeling.  Anderson says P-cod is one tough stock to assess.

“Pacific cod has a history in both the Gulf and Bering Sea of just being hard to do a stock assessment on. Most of that has to do with the aging of Pacific cod is really difficult.”  

Gulf cod catches will be in the 150,000 ton range. One bright spot in the Gulf is sablefish – catches will increase in all four Gulf fishing regions and in the Bering Sea. The boost results from adding data from whale depredation impacts, or more simply, whales robbing sablefish from gear.

“Because you’re taking into account fish that rather than naively assuming that all the fish you get on a survey, for example, index back to biomass, you’re saying that you’re catching fish on the survey but there are also fish that should be on the line but the whales ate them. So then you’ve got more fish and therefore the biomass works out to be greater.   It’s really an interesting phenomenon to have that be a major factor in a stock assessment.”    

The North Pacific Council meets December 6 through 14 at the Anchorage Hilton.  All sessions are streamed live on the web. Find links at www.alaskafishradio.com

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com

 

Pacific halibut stock appears to be holding steady; Likely ups/downs for catches

Fish Radio
Halibut stock holding steady but some catches could decline
November 30, 2016

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch … The Pacific halibut stock appears to be holding steady. More after this —

AK halibut survey regions Credit: IPHC

AK halibut survey regions
Credit: IPHC

Get a fish tech degree on the go with fully loaded iPad classes from the University of Alaska/Southeast. No internet required! Head for a career in Alaska’s largest industry.  Contact Reid Brewer at UAS Sitka     907-747-7799

Federal grants are available to help “Made in America” companies compete with imports and save US jobs. Learn more at www.nwtaac.org.

 

The Pacific halibut stock appears to have stabilized – that’s a take home message from the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s interim meeting continuing today in Seattle.  Results from this year’s survey showed that overall stock abundance is down a bit, and the bulk of the fish remain small for their ages. But the fact that halibut removals and catch rates have remained relatively stable over three years is encouraging news.

IPHC biologist Ian Stewart described the Pacific halibut fishery as “fully subscribed” among  diverse users  –

“Today, in 2016, across the entire coast, 60 percent of the removals from the halibut stock are coming from the directed fishery landings,  about 17 percent are coming  from recreation and from mortality due to bycatch in non halibut fisheries, and about three percent each coming from wastage and personal use and subsistence.”  

Stewart credited cutting edge analytical methods brought aboard by new IPHC director Ray Webster. The “more savvy” modeling smoothes out data gaps. Stewart said, and improves correspondence between the annual surveys and fishery catch rates.

The survey trend this year showed upticks in the largest halibut fishing regions – Southeast Alaska, and the Central and Western Gulf. Another notable, Stewart says, is big drops in halibut bycatch across all regions.

“We’ve seen a substantial reduction in bycatch from almost 9 million pounds in 2014 to almost 7 million pounds in 2016.”

Bycatch removals are taken off the top of the apportionments among fishing regions; less bycatch means more halibut is available for a directed fishery.

According to the IPHC scientists’ notorious “blue line”, the Alaska areas that could show increases in 2017 include Areas 3 B – the Western Gulf, and regions in the Bering Sea.

What drives the halibut directed fishery catch limits is the Fishery Constant Exploitation Yield (FCEY).

A spread sheet provided by an industry expert shows comparisons between the halibut catches that were adopted last year and the FCEYs for 2017, called “blue lines.”

For the coast wide catch, the 2017 FCEY of 26.13 million pounds is down 3.7 million pounds (12%) from the adopted 2016 catch of 29.89 million pounds.

The 2017 FCEY for Area 2C, Southeast Alaska, reflects a 17% decline to just over 4 million pounds.

The blue line for Area 3A, Central Gulf, shows a .8% drop in halibut catches to 9.4 million pounds.

For Area 3B, Western Gulf, the FCEY for next year is just over 3 million pounds, a 17.4% increase.

Area 4A, Aleutian Islands, reflects a 7.9% decline. The FCEY is down 1.8% at Area 4B – the FCEY for Areas 4CDE of the Bering Sea shows a 1.8% increase.

The IPHC often does not follow the dictates of the FCEY/Blue line outcomes.

 

Stewart cautions that numbers on the blitz of charts and graphs are not catch recommendations, but show outcomes based on scientific rolls of the dice.

 “ I’ll point out that none of these are recommendations. The recommendation from the staff is to use the decision tables to make the decision for the halibut stock. We produce the entire decision table which is a risk analysis, and it’s up to the commissioners to do risk management and decide what the appropriate decision.”

It will take a few days to digest all of the halibut data.

The IPHC will make final decisions at its annual meeting in late January in Vancouver. Alaska’s share of the Pacific halibut catch this year was about 20 million pounds.The halibut fishery will reopen in March. Find links at our website www.alaskafishradio.com

http://www.iphc.int/meetings/2016im/IPHC-2016-IM092-06-07-AssessmentIMP.pdf

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods.  Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com