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Alaska Department of Fish and Game


Information by Fishery
Commercial Groundfish Fisheries

Overview

Among Alaska’s marine fisheries the groundfish fisheries target the greatest diversity of species, including pollock, Pacific cod, sablefish, Atka mackerel, lingcod and numerous rockfish and flatfish species. Alaskan groundfish fisheries occur in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA), the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and in many bays, sounds and straits that bisect the coastline and constitute the internal waters of Alaska.

Most groundfish fisheries off the Alaskan coast are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under federal Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) adopted by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC). The status of groundfish stocks and federally-managed fisheries in the GOA and BSAI areas are summarized in annual stock assessment and fishery evaluation (SAFE) reports (e.g., NPFMC 2003a,b). Please note that halibut are managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

In general, groundfish fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ; 3–200 nm offshore) fall under federal authority (Figure 18), whereas the State of Alaska manages groundfish fishery resources within state territorial (0–3 nm) waters. For most federal groundfish fisheries, ADF&G issues emergency orders for state waters that duplicate NMFS management actions, except that gear or other restrictions may vary. These emergency orders establish parallel fishing seasons (termed “parallel fisheries”) allowing vessels to fish for groundfish (primarily Pacific cod, walleye pollock, and Atka mackerel) in state waters with the same seasons as the federal fisheries. In other instances, the State of Alaska establishes “state waters” (or state-managed) fisheries with separate catch quotas (termed GHLs in state management), and fishing seasons under state groundfish regulations (Kruse et al. 2000). Where there is a federal and parallel fishery for a species, the state waters fishery usually opens after the parallel fishery closes.

See the following link for additional information on state waters -- see paragraph (13)]

The state has separate GHLs and seasons for sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria), lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), black rockfish (Sebastes melanops), and blue rockfish (S. mystinus) fisheries. State-managed fisheries for sablefish and Pacific cod occur within 3 nm of shore, and the state has full management authority extending throughout the EEZ for species (e.g., lingcod and black and blue rockfish) not covered by a federal FMP. Lingcod were never covered by the groundfish FMPs whereas black and blue rockfish were removed in 1998. In the central GOA, state-managed fisheries in state waters consist of pollock in Prince William Sound and Pacific cod, sablefish, and all rockfish species in state waters of Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet. As in the western GOA, the state has full management authority for lingcod and black and blue rockfish fisheries. In the eastern GOA the state has immediate management authority for demersal shelf rockfish, with cooperative oversight of the NPFMC under the GOA FMP.

[Based on excerpts from the publication, Commercial Fisheries in Alaska (PDF 1,033 kB), Woodby et al. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Special Publication 05-09, June 2005. Information or data on this web page may have been updated and may no longer match the original publication.]

Pollock

(Theragra chalcogramma)

Sablefish

(Anoplopoma fimbria)

Rockfish

(Sebastes sp. and Sebastolobus sp.)

Other Groundfish

In addition to fisheries for pollock, cod, sablefish, and rockfish, there are significant fisheries in Alaska for lingcod, Atka mackerel, and various flatfish. Lingcod in all waters of Alaska are managed by ADF&G, with major landings concentrated in the eastern and central Gulf of Alaska. Atka Mackerel fisheries are federally managed, and landings are primarily from the Aleutian Islands. Flatfish fisheries catch over a dozen species, ranking third in overall biomass harvested behind pollock and Pacific cod. The primary targets include Pacific halibut, yellowfin sole, flathead sole, rock sole, Greenland turbot, Alaska plaice and arrowtooth flounder.

For a detailed view of what species of groundfish are managed in all areas of the state please see the following groundfish management activities map.

Additional Notes

Groundfish is defined as any marine finfish except halibut, osmerids, herring, and salmonids.

Halibut are not a groundfish and are managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC).

ADF&G manages groundfish in three regions of the state: Southeast, Central, and Westward regions. In the eastern gulf of Alaska, demersal shelf rockfishes are managed by ADF&G in federal waters under the authority of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

For further information/catch statistics for federally-managed groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea please refer to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) websites.


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