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After 3-Week Stand Down Over Bycatch, Cod Trawl Fleet Set To Resume Fishing Sunday

Hope McKenney/KUCB

After standing down for the last three weeks, the Bering Sea cod trawl fleet is set to resume fishing this Sunday.

Abby Duffy is a fisherman on the F/V Miss Leona. She said the fleet stepped back voluntarily due to high bycatch numbers.

"January 20, the season opened, and we did start fishing," said Duffy. "The whole fleet went out and everybody got one trip. They were seeing — on some of the bigger, other boats — a lot of halibut bycatch."

In January, 48 vessels made landings in the federal cod fishery, catching 49 metric tons of halibut along the way. That's about 13 percent of the 391 metric ton limit on halibut bycatch, so the fleet organized the stand down through an email chain.

Duffy said it was important to take early steps to reduce bycatch, because there are so many participants in the fishery. And while her 86-foot vessel has a smaller capacity and slower methods, she said the size and speed of other boats mean that byatch adds up quickly.

"These big boats are going to go out and fill up 500,000 pounds in no time at all," she said. 

Duffy said they decided to start fishing again on Feb. 9 in hopes that the cod — which are starting to spawn — will have gathered into shallower waters, allowing boats to get more fish per tow with less bycatch.

The Bering Sea's A season cod quota is 22,723 metric tons.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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