KODIAK — A new survey of rockfish on the Alaskan Peninsula has found a greater number than expected, possibly leading to bigger hauls for fishermen.
The study, conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, found 1.5 million rockfish in the Kodiak area and 1.2 million in the Chignik area. Each has about 1 million black rockfish, the species favored by commercial fishermen for sale in Asia.
“Through this model, it seems like those (guideline harvest levels) could be altered,” said Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Philip Tschersich. “The result of this is hopefully by the next year, the (harvest levels) will be changed to reflect reality.”
The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that with the new population figures, management biologists will be able to use already known life-cycle information to create a model of how many can be harvested each year.
Rockfish weren’t harvested in large numbers around Kodiak until 1991, when 55 vessels took more than 780,000 pounds. The state took over management from the federal government in 1997, with harvest limits set at 170,000 pounds in the Kodiak Management Area surrounding the island.
Further restrictions followed. The harvest was divided among districts, and trip limits were imposed, limiting fishermen to 5,000 pounds of rockfish every five days.
Tschersich argues that regulators were working with incomplete information, leading to unnecessarily strict haul limits. The limits, Tchersich said, drove away locals who might have sought out the fish.
“There was a time when everybody in town was buying jig machines and it seemed like rockfish were the next big thing,” he said. “A number of people lost interest when the trip limits were introduced.”
Biologists expect the restrictions to be eased after the study, allowing for bigger hauls.
“We know a lot about them, but we’ve never known how many there were,” Tschersich said.