Resource Management
All the species of white fish in Alaska are caught in the Bering Sea and in the Gulf of Alaska by the use of sustainable methods which allow for the long-term conservation of fish stocks. Scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) conduct thorough, ongoing studies of all aspects of the biology of Alaska whitefish species, including their biotic and physical environment in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. The staff of the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) conducts similar studies of halibut throughout its range from California to Russia. Scientists from NMFS and IPHC, in consultation with other fisheries biologists from government and academia, scientifically estimate the biomass of the various species and the recruitment (natural addition of young fish) to the stock.
They make their best estimate of the fraction of that biomass that may be safely and sustainably caught. This is a methodical process, performed with state-of-the-art fishery biological modeling methods. The NMFS and IPHC scientists also apportion the estimates among various statistical areas along the coast of North America, based on the abundance of fish in those areas. These estimates are called Acceptable Biological Catches, or ABCs.
Other successes and benefits of the Alaska IFQ system are:
  • The fisheries are closely and carefully monitored by NMFS scientists and law enforcement personnel
  • Natural variability is explicitly taken into account, because IFQ shares are percentages of the annually variable TACs, rather than for a certain amount of fish; an individual’s fractional share remains constant, but the total, science-based quota varies in accordance with the natural fluctuations of the fish populations.
  • Far less fishing gear is left on the fishing grounds because the fishery is less frantic than in previous years; this reduces unwanted catch by abandoned gear.
  • Seafood quality is better because steady landings allow for better on-boat handling and prompt processing; this also reduces waste.