Alaska’s inshore Pacific cod fishery opened Jan. 19 in Area O, near Dutch Harbor. As of Tuesday, Jan. 29, the record 36 participating pot boats had made 74 landings, tallying 5.1 million pounds.

A crewman on the F/V Magnus Martens pulls and sets cod pots during the state water Pacific cod season near Dutch Harbor. Keith Bell photo.

“This is one of the only open-access fisheries left in Bering Sea cod,” said Jason Miller, owner of the F/V April Lane out of Petersburg and vice president of the trade organization Under Sixty Cod Harvesters that represents the small-boat pot cod fleet. “Putting the boat and crew to work here, this time of year, it’s a big deal and an important part of how my business has diversified. It’s a fantastic fishery for Alaska and Alaskan fishermen.”

Alaska residents own and operate 85 percent of participating vessels, and the fleet takes pride in being made up of small businesses thriving on state-water resources and boosting local coastal communities.

"This is just a great fishery for Alaska," said Miller. “I have a lot of respect and appreciation for our seafood processors,” he added. “They’ve worked hard to partner with this fleet, and to build strong market opportunities we can all rely on.”

In October, Alaska's Board of Fisheries voted to allocate the fleet 8 percent of the harvestable cod stock in the Bering Sea, up from 6.4 last year. Over the next seven years, the fleet will top out at 15 percent of the quota. This is compared to 30 percent in the Western Gulf of Alaska state water cod fishery and 25 percent in the Central Gulf.

"Diversification in small boat commercial fishing is increasingly important to running a successful year-round fishing business," said Homer based fisherman Erik Velsko, whose F/V Dangerous Cape is participating in Area O for the first time this season. "Single fishery, small boat fishermen are becoming few and far between as maintenance costs and entry access in other fisheries has skyrocketed over time. Diversification requires entry level opportunities, and Alaska's state-water small boat pot cod fisheries do just that."

Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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