Slew of squid frustrates pollock fishermen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – They’re pink, slippery and decidedly not cute, especially if you are a pollock fisherman in the Bering Sea pulling up a slew of unusable squid this summer.

The problem took on alarming proportions in early July when fishermen netted more than 500 tons of squid bycatch in one week, Josh Keaton, a resource management specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, said Friday.

The amount of squid was about four times what might be typical.

“We confirmed that the numbers were real and they really did catch that amount of squid. We then tried to find out where the squid were caught,” Keaton said.

While high rates of squid bycatch had occurred before, this time it set off alarm bells because the squid were caught near the start of the mid-June through September pollock season.

“I just about had a heart attack. That is a lot of squid,” said Karl Haflinger, president of Sea State Inc. of Seattle, which helps the industry manage bycatch, the unwanted and often wasted fish caught along with the targeted fish.

Fishermen in the Bering Sea are allowed a certain amount of squid bycatch each year. For 2006, the recommended amount was not to exceed 1,976 tons. As of July 15, the amount of bycatch was 1,403 tons. At 2,620 tons, the National Marine Fisheries Service would be looking at restricting the fishery.

“We don’t want to get there,” said Haflinger, who has helped craft an agreement with the pollock fleet to tackle the problem. “So we will keep out of the squid area for over the next month probably.”

The Bering Sea pollock fishery is the largest in the world with a total allowable catch of 1.5 million tons this year. The bland, white fish is what goes into a variety of popular products, including fast-food fish sandwiches, fish sticks and fake crabmeat.

John Gruver, with the trade organization United Catcher Boats, worked on the formal bycatch agreement with Haflinger. The agreement was presented Friday to the pollock cooperatives for review.

Once signed, it requires that fishermen steer clear of about a 500-square-mile area shaped like a triangle about 35 miles from Dutch Harbor where most of the squid were found. First-time violators would be fined $10,000, with fines increasing to $15,000 and $20,000 for repeat violations.

The small area in the southeastern Bering Sea tends to be very good for pollock, especially in the summer and fall, said Gruver, who fished the Bering Sea for nearly 20 years. It’s not known exactly why so many squid are showing up in the area this summer.

Gruver said a letter was sent to the pollock fishing fleet about a week ago telling them to stay out of the Unmak Pass area.

“This is a sacrifice for the fleet,” Gruver said.

Between 85 and 90 catcher boats – those that have to return to shore to drop off their fish for processing – could be fishing for pollock at any one time in the Bering Sea, he said. Most of the boats are out of Seattle, with some also coming from Oregon and California. Alaska has boats coming from Kodiak and scattered other places.

Now, fishermen are having to travel hundreds of miles to find good fishing, Haflinger said, which is a hardship on the catcher boats that have only two or three days to get their fish to shore for processing.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read