By Kavitha George.
In an unprecedented response to historically low numbers of Pacific cod, the federal cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska is closing for the 2020 season.
It’s a decision that came as little surprise, but it’s the first time the fishery has closed due to concerns of low stock. Warming ocean temperatures linked to climate change are wreaking havoc on a number of Alaska’s fisheries, worrying biologists, locals and fishers with low returns that jeopardize fishing livelihoods.
A stock assessment this fall put Gulf cod populations at a historic low, with “next to no” new eggs, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research biologist Steve Barbeaux, who authored the report.
At their current numbers, cod are below the federal threshold that protects them as a food source for endangered Steller sea lions. Once below that line, the total allowable catch goes to zero — in other words, the fishery shuts down.
After the report was released, the stock assessment still had to pass through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for review. The council unanimously passed the final decision to close the fishery today in Anchorage.
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