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MESA: Pacific Ocean Perch Fishery

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Pacific Ocean Perch:
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40 tons of POP hauled on F/V Unimak
40 tons of POP hauled on F/V Unimak.

The fishery for Pacific ocean perch developed nearly synchronously throughout the U.S. west coast to the Bering Sea. The Gulf of Alaska fishing history captures a typical catch history: A Pacific ocean perch trawl fishery by the U.S.S.R. and Japan began in the Gulf of Alaska in the early 1960's. This fishery developed rapidly, with massive efforts by the Soviet and Japanese fleets. Catches peaked in 1965, when a total of nearly 350,000 metric tons (mt) were caught. This apparent overfishing resulted in a precipitous decline in catches in the late 1960's.

Catches continued to decline in the 1970's, and by 1978 catches were only 8,000 t. Foreign fishing dominated the fishery from 1977 to 1984, and catches generally declined during this period. Most of the catch was taken by Japan. Catches reached a minimum in 1985, after foreign trawling in the Gulf of Alaska was prohibited.

Historically, bottom trawls have accounted for nearly all the commercial harvest of Pacific ocean perch. Pacific ocean perch are typically aggregated and can easily be located with hydroacoustics. Trawlers often can target POP with low incidental catch (bottom photo). In recent years, however, a sizable portion of the Pacific ocean perch catch has been taken by pelagic trawls. Before 1996, most of the Pacific ocean perch trawl catch (>90%) was taken by large factory-trawlers that processed the fish at sea. A significant change occurred in 1996, however, when smaller shore-based trawlers began taking a sizeable portion of the catch in the central Gulf of Alaska area for delivery to processing plants in Kodiak.

Conservative management measures, an excellent observer program, and perhaps higher productivity in Alaska have allowed the stock to recover to a level which can allow about 26,000 tons per annum for all of Alaska.

POP are often caught with low incidental catch
POP are often caught with low incidental catch.

Dana Hanselman
Auke Bay Laboratories
Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute
17109 Pt Lena Loop Rd
Juneau AK 99801

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