Pollock B Season Closes With Distant Fishing And Lower Bycatch
Tuesday, October 16 2012
As the king crab fisheries open up, the Bering Sea pollock fishery is winding down.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the factory trawlers and motherships that make up the offshore sector have taken all of their annual allocation. Meanwhile, the catcher vessels that comprise the inshore sector are at 96 percent of their yearly quota. Nearly 700,000 metric tons of pollock had been taken through October 6.
While a few of the catcher vessels that deliver fish to Unalaska processing plants are still wrapping up, many crews went home in September.
Jay Cox is the skipper on the Morning Star, a catcher vessel that delivers to Unisea. He says that fishing was initially good, but slowed some as the season progressed. Much of the fleet had to travel 500 miles out to fill up, and some vessels even came close to the Russian line.
"You’d see the Russian boats across the border on the AIS," says Cox.
But while the trips were long, Cox says this B season was an improvement over the last one.
"It was better than last year," says Cox. "The fish that would have been too small in the last several years was just big enough, and the plants were making a really big effort to process it from what I could see."
The fish harvested exceeded the 350-gram threshold for processing, and he says that the uniformity of the catch meant that the discard rate was low.
In addition to finishing the season out earlier than in 2011, the pollock fleet also had fewer problems with salmon bycatch. They took just over 20,000 chums incidentally this year, compared to nearly 175,000 chum in 2011. King bycatch is also lower for the year, with 9,000 fish being caught incidentally compared to 16,000 in 2011.