Bering Sea cod season has potential to be shortest ever

Published on
January 16, 2018

The trawling season for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea begins 20 January, although the season will likely draw to a close earlier than mid- to late-March, when the season traditionally ends. 

Analysts expect the season to close for a number of reasons. Quotas have decreased in the Bering Sea by about 15 percent to about 414 million pounds of fish. However, it’s the quota decrease in the Gulf of Alaska that is expected to cause more competition and quotas being filled quickly in the Bering Sea. 

Due to a severe 80 percent cut in the cod quota in the Gulf of Alaska, the fleets that usually consider those waters their home turf will likely make their way to the Bering Sea to fish for the season, however long it lasts. 

The reason for the quota cuts is a severe depletion in Alaska cod stocks which, in recent years, have posted the worst numbers for decades, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. 

Krista Milani, who is a marine biologist at the NMFS, predicted the numbers to rebound in the coming years, since she expects water temperatures to revert to cooler temperatures. 

“We’re fairly confident [the stocks] are going to recover. Cod tends to be robust if the water temperatures stay where they’re supposed to,” she said. 

The warm water that has struck the Gulf of Alaska have become colloquially known as “The Blob.” Waters in the gulf have been warmer than normal since 2014, something that drastically impacts the survival of the native cod egg populations. 

“The warm water increased the metabolism of cod, while reducing available food, resulting in poor body condition and increased mortality,” according to the National Pacific Fisheries Management Council.

Last year the season ended on 23 February, which was the earlier it has closed in decades.

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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