KODIAK (AP) -- The Gulf of Alaska pollock season wrapped up at noon Wednesday but only about half of the total quota was harvested, due to restrictions aimed at protecting the Steller sea lion.
Fishermen caught about half of the 23,000-metric ton quota for the season, which opened Oct. 1.
A federal court injunction issued in July banned trawlers from areas deemed critical habitat for the Steller sea lion -- waters roughly within 20 miles of shore. Steller sea lion numbers in western Alaska have dropped more than 80 percent in the past 35 years, from an estimated 230,000 animals in 1965 to 34,000 today.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly agreed with the environmental groups that groundfishing may be harming sea lions by reducing their food supply and disrupting their foraging patterns.
As a result of the injuction, most of the pollock harvested last month was caught by larger boats capable of fishing 20 miles from shore.
Tom Pearson, National Marine Fisheries Service management biologist, told the Kodiak Daily Mirror that poor weather and the court injunction kept the harvest down. Pearson said, in past years, the fleet has caught nearly all of the quota.
Kodiak fishermen caught nearly all of the 5,000-metric ton quota for the Kodiak area of the fishery. Only about 100 tons of the 6,800-metric ton quota for the Chirikof area was harvested, and 6,500 tons of the Shumagin Island's 11,500-metric ton quota was taken.
Processors are paying about 7.5 cents per pound for pollock, which is used to make fish sticks and surimi, the paste that is the basis for imitation crab and other seafood products.
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