The commercial allocation for Pacific hake, or whiting, was set lower for 2020, with the harvest guideline down 7 percent from last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) set the US commercial harvest across the catcher-processor, mothership co-op and shorebased individual fishing quota (IFQ) programs at 336,776 metric tons.

The US interim coastwide allocation was set at 410,034 metric tons for the season, also down 7 percent from last year. However, a final decision on the quota has yet to be reached, officials told IntraFish.

The Pacific whiting treaty’s Joint Management Committee (JMC), which gives a final rule on the full coast-wide total allowable catch (TAC) for both the US and Canada, did not reach an agreement, though a decision is expected within the next month.

The agreement between the US and Canada on Pacific whiting allocates 73.88 percent of the Pacific whiting TAC to the US and 26.12 percent to Canada.

In 2019 the coast-wide TAC was set at 597,500 metric tons, with the US allocated 441,433 metric tons.

The 2019 total US catch, 317,003 metric tons, was well below the harvest guideline. The coast-wide catch -- including both US and Canada -- was 411,283 metric tons.

The harvest guideline of 3336,776 metric tons break down among the sector as:

  • Catcher/processor coop program: 80,826 metric tons (24%)
  • Mothership coop program: 114,504 metric tons (34%)
  • Shorebased IFQ program: 141,446 metric tons (42%)

For the interim, the joint TAC – US and Canada – of 555,000 metric tons.

"If the final US TAC is greater than the interim allocation of 555,000 metric tons, additional amounts will be provided to the commercial sectors once we publish the final rule," the NOAA spokesperson said.

The final rule will establish the final 2020 US TAC, tribal allocation, research and incidental catch set-asides, and non-tribal harvest guideline for the commercial sectors.

The fishery, scheduled to open May 15, will operate under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.

All five major seafood companies operating in the fishery -- American Seafoods, Arctic Storm, Glacier Fish, Aleutian Spray Fisheries, and Trident Seafoods -- will be administering the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to crew members and instituting other mitigation measures, Matt Tinning, director of public affairs for the At-Sea Processor's Association (APA), told IntraFish.