Alaskan fishermen told to form co-ops to help manage Pacific cod stocks

‘Benefits include more efficient coordination of fishing operations, potential to reduce operational expenses, and increased quality and revenue from the product’

US federal agency NOAA Fisheries has ordered Alaskan fishermen to form co-operatives to improve the management of Pacific cod stocks.

It says cod is one of the most abundant and valuable groundfish species caught off Alaska’s coast and requires a more efficient solution to regulate the harvest.

Under the new rule – Amendment 122 to the Fishery Management Plan for Groundfish of the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Management Area – Pacific cod harvest quota shares are issued to qualifying license holders and processors.

Starting next year, participants must form co-ops to harvest the quota under the rule, the first catch share program implemented in Alaska since 2012.

The amount of quota share NOAA Fisheries issues will be determined by the historical participation of harvesters as well as processors. To use its quota share, an LLP license holder must join a co-op and a processor must associate with a co-op. The percentage of the quota share pool held by each LLP license holder and processor will be combined with other participants within the co-operative.

NOAA Fisheries, after setting the Pacific cod directed fishing allowance, will issue a quota permit to co-operatives, telling them how much Pacific cod can be caught. Each co-operative internally decides how much Pacific cod each of its members harvests. 

The programe applies only to the first two of the three fishing seasons, which run from 20 January to 10 June. The third, from 10 June to 1 November, remains a limited access fishery open to all trawl catcher vessels with LLP license endorsements.

“Over the last several years,“ says NOAA, “total allowable catch for Pacific cod in the BSAI management area has steadily decreased.

“The pace of the trawl catcher vessel fishery has contributed to an increasingly shorter season. This has decreased the value of the fishery and negatively impacted all fishery participants (vessels, motherships, shoreside processors, and communities). It also discourages fishing practices that can minimise bycatch and threatens the sustained viability of the fishery.“ 

The goal is to improve the prosecution of the fishery, adds NOAA, by :

  • Promoting safety and stability in the harvesting and processing sectors
  • Minimising bycatch to the extent practicable
  • Increasing the value of the fishery
  • Providing for the sustained participation of fishery dependent communities
  • Ensuring the sustainability and viability of the resource 

The Pacific Cod Trawl Cooperative Program joins other co-op-based programs in Alaska – including the American Fisheries Act Program, Crab Rationalization Program, Central Gulf of Alaska Rockfish Program, and Amendment 80 Program.

“Generally, co-operative structures allow for more flexibility for participants throughout the fishing season,” says NOAA. “Some benefits include more efficient coordination of fishing operations, potential to reduce operational expenses, and increased quality and revenue from the product.“