Fewer cod vessels will take to sea this year

Operators buy out boats to boost profits

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's cod fleet is about to shrink.

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Operators of freezer longline boats have voted to buy out three vessels to boost revenue for the remaining 36 boats, which fish mainly for Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

Fleet members had until Friday to vote on the buyout, and a count of the ballots showed it passed, said Mike Sturtevant, with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Remaining vessel owners will pay a 1.6 percent tax on the dockside value of their catches to repay a 30-year, $35 million federal loan financing the buyout.

The cod fishery has been worth as much as $159 million in recent years. Federal officials estimate that active vessels will net an average of nearly $303,000 yearly with the buyout.

Freezer longline boats catch cod with long strings of hooks. Crews head, gut and freeze the fish for sale all over the world including Japan and Europe, where the cod is salted or used for fish and chips.

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