Unalaska City Council Supports Rationalization Of Cod Fisheries

Sep 25, 2019

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is considering rationalization of two Pacific cod fisheries.
Credit Holland Dotts & the Alaska Marine Conservation Council

The Unalaska City Council has endorsed the rationalization of two derby-style Pacific cod fisheries.

On Tuesday, councilors voted to support the development of Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) for trawl catcher vessels targeting cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, as well as for pot catcher vessels 60 feet long and longer.

Mayor Frank Kelty sponsored the resolution ahead of next month's meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC), which is considering rationalization. 

"We're just supporting some kind of a program that'll stop the race for fish," said Kelty. "It'll help reduce bycatch and get better value for the fishery. The way we're going now is not working. We're seeing shorter and shorter seasons."

Caused by reduced quotas and increased participation, Kelty said shorter cod seasons have been bad for business at Unalaska's shoreside processing plants. He also said they hurt tax revenue for the city, which considers cod the most valuable groundfish species after pollock.

While the resolution passed unanimously, Councilor Roger Rowland said rationalization will "lock out" small boat fishermen like himself.

"At this point, a person can still join that fishery by just getting their hands on an LLP and getting the gear," said Rowland. "Once this LAPP goes through, it will be just like the crab quotas and the pollock. It'll be a multimillionaire fishery.

"So as a council member representing the community of Unalaska, I will support this resolution," continued Rowland. "But it's definitely not friendly to the smaller, independent fisherman."

The resolution does ask the NPFMC to consider taking unused cod quota from the jig sector to create a "community allocation" for small boats from Unalaska. Based on a proposal by local cod fisherman Dustan Dickerson, the allocation would only apply for fixed gear vessels under 60 feet long.

"This will allow my sons or great grandchildren — if it's allocated to the community — to get into a fishery," said Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson. "It would allow future participants to come in without having to spend millions to get into it."

While the NPFMC meeting kicks off next week in Homer, Kelty said he expects the fishery council to spend the next year or more considering rationalization and other cod proposals.