PWS state waters Pacific cod fishery opens Feb. 1

A Prince William Sound commercial state waters Pacific cod fishery opens Feb. 1 for all gear types, with a guideline harvest level of 437,425 pounds, a 53 percent drop from last year’s 936,965-pound quota.

Longline gear harvesters will get 85 percent (371,811) pounds, and pot or jig gear 15 percent (65,614 pounds), Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists said in announcing the fishery on Dec. 19.

The state waters season 2020 GHLs are based on a 35 percent reduction from the maximum prescribed harvest limits in regulation. This GHL reduction would provide the opportunity for limited fisheries in state waters while recognizing the need for conservative fisheries management at current cod stock levels, ADF&G officials said.

The state waters cod fishery will open in the Inside District, Western Section of the Outside District, and that portion of the Eastern Section of the Outside District west of Hook Point.

ADF&G reminded harvesters that portions of the Prince William Sound Inside District are closed to fishing with groundfish pot gear.

Regulations require that cod be retained up to the maximum bycatch allowance when a directed fishery for cod is closed and that all cod caught incidentally to other groundfish fisheries be retained when a directed fishery for cod is open. In Prince William Sound, cod may be retained at a 20 percent bycatch allowance to other directed fisheries for vessels using longline, pot or jig gear.


The directed state Pollock fishery opens noon Jan. 20 with a 5.08 million-pound GHL, down 23 percent from a year ago. Harvesters must have a 2020 Pollock fishery registration from ADF&G no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 1 in order to participate. Also required are in-season catch reports, logbooks and, upon request, accommodation of an ADF&G observer.

Pollock trip limits are 300,000 pounds. Any larger harvests must be documented as an overage on the fish ticket.

While the directed Pollock fishery is open, all Pollock caught as bycatch must be retained by harvesters participating in other groundfish fisheries in Prince William Sound.

The Prince William Sound sablefish fishery opens on April 15 and runs through Aug. 31. Participating harvesters must obtain a 2020 PWS sablefish registration no later than 5 p.m. April 1, the regulatory deadline to participate in the 2020 fishery.

The 2020 sablefish GHL is 167,000 pounds, up 25 percent from last year, due to an increase in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s allowable biological catch. The 2019 sablefish harvest was 93,815 pounds of the 134,000-pound GHL, an increase of about 5,680 pounds from the 2018 harvest, continuing an increasing trend following the 2015 harvest of 16,910 pounds, which was the lowest harvest in the history of the fishery.

State fisheries officials also noted that rockfish may only be retained in Prince William Sound as bycatch to other directed fisheries and that lingcod in both state and federal waters may not be retained until July 1.

The PWS rockfish management plan requires full retention of all rockfish caught and mandates that proceeds from sale of any bycatch overage be paid to the state.

GHLs for the directed lingcod fishery are 7,300 pounds for the Inside District and 25,3000 pounds for the Outside District. Lingcod may also be retained as bycatch up to 20 percent of the directed finfish species on board a vessel after July 1, ADF&G officials said.