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Newfoundland fishermen look to pot fishing for cod

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- Newfoundland fishermen, faced with a collapse in cod stocks, are looking to pot fishing as a cleaner, more efficient way to catch the valuable bottomfish.

A researcher, a fisherman, a government official, and a union representative from Newfoundland were in Kodiak last week to learn how fishermen here catch cod with steel pots.

The group from the island off the East Coast of Canada is hoping to find an alternative to traditional gillnets and longline gear.

''Your pot fishing is very clean,'' said Philip Walsh, a fishing gear technologist with Newfoundland's Marine Institute. ''It certainly targets the species you're after (cod) with very little bycatch.''

Fishing is the No. 1 industry in Newfoundland. Until the early '90s, cod fishing dominated the area but stocks have collapsed.

''From a fisherman's point of view, I think it was overfishing,'' Newfoundland longliner Chris Collier said.

One of the big problems with gillnets is ''ghostfishing,'' Walsh said. Ghostfishing occurs when a net is lost but continues to catch fish, killing thousands of unharvested cod.

''Thirty (gill)nets were recently collected, which had only been lost for two months,'' Walsh said. ''Thirty thousand pounds of fish were in those nets.''

Gillnets are also notorious for catching species besides the one targeted, producing tons of unwanted bycatch. Longlines are cleaner than gillnets, but are less selective than pots and are labor intensive.

Pots are designed to target a specific species. If pots are lost, fish can escape through a hole wrapped in biodegradable cotton webbing, which dissolves if the pot soaks too long.

Last year in the Gulf of Alaska, pot gear took nearly as much cod as trawl gear, 28,000 tons versus 31,000 tons, said Alaska Department of Fish and Game groundfish biologist Dave Jackson.

While in Kodiak, the group went pot cod fishing on the 38-foot F/V Sarah Marie, owned by Randy Blondin. They were impressed with the results.

''The quality of the fish is much better from a pot,'' Collier said.



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