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Kodiak trawlers to begin pollock A season

A view from the water of boats at the St. Herman Harbor in Kodiak
Several fishers dock their boats at the St. Herman Harbor in Kodiak, January 14, 2024. (Brian Venua/KMXT)

The Alaska pollock A season opened Jan. 20 but the Kodiak fleet has been standing down to avoid bycatch, or the incidental harvest of non-targeted species.

Julie Bonney is the executive director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank in Kodiak, which looks into management policy and research for the Gulf of Alaska. She said it’s typical for the pollock fleet to wait until February to start fishing.

“It’s a combination of the fish having aggregated and there’s more salmon around so they [the fleet] just wait before they get started,” she said.

The quota for the A season in the Gulf of Alaska this year is 90,900 metric tons. That’s nearly half the year’s total allowable catch of 190,000 metric tons in the gulf. The rest of the quota can be harvested in the B season which starts in June, or during the C and D seasons which run concurrently in the fall.

This year’s quota is about 25% higher than last year’s, however the data bank’s staff are unsure if all of that fish will be harvested. Last year pollock fishermen did not harvest all of the quota from the eastside of Kodiak Island.

But once the voluntary stand down is over on Feb. 1st, Bonney said it’s a race to catch as much pollock as possible.

“In the Gulf of Alaska, you set the pie on the table, everybody has a fork because they have a license,” she explained. “But if I can eat the pie faster, I can eat the whole pie and nobody else gets a piece of the pie.”

She said there are about 40 boats that fish the gulf for pollock that deliver to Kodiak processing plants.

The pollock A season ended last year on the west side of the island in March, but the east side did not end until late May because fishermen did not harvest the total allowable catch there. This year’s season may end sooner than that if quota or bycatch limits are reached before the end of May.