Good news, bad news for Alaska commercial fishermen in 2013

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Depending on their quarry, some commercial fishermen working Alaska waters can expect a productive year in 2013, while others will face tighter limits.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council has released its 2013 catch limits and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced its predictions on some major salmon runs.

Among the highlights:

Pollock: The catch limit for Bering Sea and Aleutian pollock was set at 1.27 million metric tons, a 4 percent increase.  In the Gulf of Alaska, the pollock catch will be 121,046 tons, also a 4 percent jump.

Halibut: Final numbers are due at International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting in January, but here’s what’s expected -- a harvest of 22.7 million pounds along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska, which represents a one-third cut from this year’s limit as managers try to protect declining stocks. In Alaska, the limit will decline 32 percent from what it was this year to 17.4 million pounds.  Limits for halibut sport charters, which take only a sliver of the total catch, are expected to remain the same.

Snow crab:  A sharp 25 percent cut to the Bering Sea snow crab harvest will limit the catch to 66.4 million pounds.

Red salmon:  Because the huge Bristol Bay red salmon run is predicted to be down 19 percent from the 2012 forecast of 32 million fish, the harvest is expected to be 16.59 million fish. That’s about 5 million fewer fish than were caught this year.

Another major change for commercial pollock fishermen in the Gulf of Alaska is a new cap on the number of king salmon that can be caught incidentally by trawlers in an effort to protect king runs that have declined sharply in several Alaska rivers.  The cap is 25,000 fish split between the winter and fall pollock seasons.  Federal managers can close the fishery if the cap is exceeded.