The North Pacific Fishery Management Council on Thursday evening approved a total allowable catch (TAC) for Eastern Bering Sea pollock of 1.425million metric tons, up 2 percent over the 2019 TAC of 1.397 million metric tons.
The council approved a TAC for Bering Sea Pacific cod of 141,799 metric tons, down nearly 15 percent from 166,475 metric tons in 2019. The Aleutian Island Pacific cod TAC, meanwhile, was set at 13,796 metric tons, down from the 14,214 TAC this season.
The combined Bering Sea/Aleutian Island cod TAC is 155,595 metric tons for 2020. The 2019 Bering Sea Pacific cod catch through Nov. 2 was 148,142 metric tons.
The cod TAC could fall further in 2021 if the council's advisory's panel recommended Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) falls to 102,975 metric tons from the 155,873 metric ton ABC the panel recommended for the 2020 season.
The ABC was 181,000 metric tons in 2019.
During this week's NPFMC meeting, the advisory panel recommended an ABC level for Eastern Bering Sea pollock of 2.04 million metric tons, down from the 2.16 million metric ton level approved for the 2019 season. The council also noted the 2019 Eastern Bering Sea pollock catch was at 1,406,063 metric tons as of Nov. 2. Scientists at the meeting warned that the pollock sector is facing below average ABC levels in the coming years.
Russia’s Fisheries Research Institute has already approved an increase in the country's pollock quota for 2020, setting the TAC at just more than 1.83 million metric tons -- up 24,000 metric tons from the 2019 level. The growth is expected to come mainly from pollock catches in the Sea of Okhotsk.
In October, the International Groundfish Forum projected a total supply of the main wild-caught whitefish species to climb slightly in 2020, to 7.29 million metric tons, up from an estimated 7.288 million metric tons this year. It projected an Alaska pollock catch of 1.528 million metrics tons for 2020 and 1.7 million metric tons for Russia.