2017 Outlook

Alaska Cod

Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI)

The 2017 total allowable catch (TAC) for Alaska cod in the Bering Sea (BS) and Aleutian Islands (AI) is approximately 223,700 mt and 15,680 mt, respectively. This amounts to a combined total BSAI TAC of 239,390 mt. This is roughly 12,000 mt lower than the 2016 TAC of 251,520mtT.

The freezer longline (FLL) sector's initial allocation of the 2017 BSAI TAC is 103,700 mt, or roughly 5000 mt lower than for 2016. The FLL sector's Alaska cod allocation is apportioned between A and B Season. The A Season begins on January 1st and ends on June 9th. The B Season begins on June 10th and ends on December 31st. The FLL BSAI allocations for A and B Season are 52,890 mt and 50,820 mt, respectively.

The 2017 BSAI allocation for community development quota (CDQ) is 25,610 MT, compared to 26,900 MT in 2016. The majority of the CDQ allocation is harvest by FLL vessels.

In 2016, the total BSAI Alaska cod harvest for all gear types was 240,650 mt and the FLL total harvest was 112,800 mt.

Gulf of Alaska (GOA)

The 2017 Alaska cod TAC for the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) is 64 440 mt, compared to 71,925 mt in 2016. The FLL allocation of the 2017 GOA TAC is 6,530 mt.

Sablefish (Black Cod)

The sablefish (black cod) season opens in mid-March. The 2017 combined GOA and BSAI TAC is 13,080 MT. In 2016, the actual sablefish harvest was 10,170 mt. This year, Clipper Seafoods will have two vessels targeting sablefish between March and May, with a projected total harvest of approximately 180 mt.

Greenland Turbot

The 2017 BS TAC for Greenland turbot is 4,500 mt, compared to 3,460 mt in 2016.The FLL portion of the TAC is 2,750 MT, compared to 1,870 in 2016. The total 2016 FLL harvest was approximately 1,000 mt. In 2017, the Greenland turbot fishing season is expected to open in early May. We anticipate that two to three Clipper vessels will target Greenland turbot, and these vessels are expected to harvest approximately 1,500 mt.

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Alaska Dispatch]

By Alex DeMarban, June 8, 2015

First, the important question: How bad does 200 tons of cod liver smell?

Not bad at all, say the investors behind a new effort to parlay mountains of once-discarded fish livers into a nutritional supplement bursting with Bering Sea goodness.

This winter, employees with Bering Select squeezed 75 tons of oil from cod livers at a newly built plant in Dutch Harbor. That launched what they say is the world’s only company planning to sell the byproduct from Pacific cod [also known as Alaska cod] rather than Atlantic cod, the traditional source of the oil.

If your parents ever forced the stuff upon you as a child, you might recoil at the thought of millions of livers crushed to a pulp. But in this operation, the organs are quickly frozen and the extraction is self-contained in a big machine resembling beer-brewery hardware, with an air scrubber masking odors.

“It's a very, very clean facility,” said Larry Pihl with Seattle's Clipper Seafoods.

The fishing company, recipient of the biggest cod quota in the Bering Sea, joined forces with investors that include Siu Alaska, a fishing venture owned by villagers in Northwest Alaska, to build the multimillion-dollar facility in December in the community made famous by the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch."

Commercial sales have yet to begin. But the oil extracted so far is on its way to other factories for minimal distillation, including one in Iceland. More extraction will begin soon in Dutch Harbor, with at least eight workers making oil from fish landed during the year's second cod season, which begins Wednesday.

In the future, the company plans to bring the distillation process to Dutch Harbor too, creating more jobs and tax revenue for the rural fishing community.

“You’re talking about millions of dollars of commercial value out of something that since anyone knows has been ground up and tossed overboard until now,” Pihl said.

The cod-liver oil on the market today is renowned for being rich in nutrients. But Pihl said it's often super-processed to remove impurities and concentrate good fats such as Omega-3s.

Bering Select's plans for the Pacific cod calls for going as au natural as possible, with very limited processing to preserve the already abundant levels of vitamins A and D and Omega-3s. Also, the company freezes the Pacific cod livers shortly after they’re landed on Clipper Seafoods' freezer-longliner ships, an improvement over other operations that don't freeze livers at sea, Pihl said.

“We believe we’re getting the purest, most natural cod liver oil in the world, because no one is doing it this way,” Pihl said.

Dutch Harbor Mayor Shirley Marquardt said the "amazing little plant" is a great opportunity for the town of 4,700.

“They could have gone somewhere else in the world to get a better electric rate and lower transportation costs. But they kept it in Alaska right at the source,” she said.

She toured the facility last fall before the extraction began. She was impressed by the machinery and the science behinds cod oil's nutritional benefits. It's used to fight cholesterol and kidney disease and beautify skin, but long ago its high levels of Vitamin D were used to prevent bone disorders caused by rickets.

A child of the 1960s, Marquardt said she grew up spitting out the “disgusting” cod-liver oil her mother spooned into her and as an adult turned to capsules. The oil seems to have kept her family spry -- her late grandmother took it regularly and at 91 could still chase loose cattle in Kansas, she said.

“Who knows why some people live as long as they do, but it certainly can’t hurt when you think about how important these oils are,” she said.

Pihl said other longline companies are ready to jump on board and sell their Pacific cod livers to the facility. But that can't happen until commercial sales are in full swing and the company is ready to handle larger volumes.

That will mean lots of liver. Fishermen in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands brought in almost half a billion pounds of Pacific cod last year, most of it sold as fillets in Europe and Japan. With skin that resembles desert camouflage, the bottom-feeding fish can grow to 4 feet long, with hefty livers for processing gunk from the ocean floor.

“It’s a big, fat, oily organ,” Pihl said.

Clipper Seafoods used to toss the liver overboard with the guts. But the fishery was "rationalized" in 2010 -- giving companies quotas and ending the frenzied race to land as much high-value meat as possible. Clipper Seafoods began pursuing ways to maximize value at sea, Pihl said.

At the facility, frozen blocks of liver are ground by an augur into a pate that looks like big globs of Play-Doh. Then it slips into the enclosed system for steam-heating and a centrifuge to spin out the oil.

The produced “crude oil” is fantastic, said Todd Parker, vice president of business development with Marine Ingredients based in Pennsylvania, a minority investor in the project and a manufacturer of fish-oil products.

“It comes out with a light golden color and an odor-free, buttery taste,” said Parker. “I’m not kidding.”

Like the Bering Sea and Aleutian cod fisheries, Bering Select has received a stamp of approval from the Marine Stewardship Council, a sustainable fisheries certifier. After the right distillation process is nailed down, Bering Select plans to sell the oil as gel capsules or in bottles, after adding a pinch of citrus flavoring.