Deep beneath the frigid Alaskan waters, massive schools of black cod roam the ocean…just waiting to be caught by eager fishermen. The Alaskan Black Cod fishery is currently booming as demand for black cod has soared and prices have shot up. In fact, the black cod is the highest priced groundfish in the entire North Pacific.
Black cod, also known as sablefish, frequent the muddy sea beds of Alaska’s nutrient rich waters. The average black cod is about 3 feet long and 8 to 10 pounds with a dark green to blackish coloring. But some have been recorded at 40 inches long and weighing in at 40 pounds! They can live from 55 to 94 years, if Alaskan fishermen don’t catch them first.
Some say that black cod is the best tasting fish in the world. It is often used in gourmet entrees and is famous for its smoked deliciousness. Some refer to it as the “butterfish” because of its deep flavor. But before it can be enjoyed by taste buds around the world, it must be caught.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) manages the Alaskan black cod fishery and determines whom, where, and how much black cod can be caught and processed commercially. The fishery is regulated by the Individual Fishing Quotas System (IFQs). IFQs are given out to fishermen and dictate how many fish they can catch. They can use their shares anytime during the black cod fishery season. IFQs guarantee that they won’t overfish. If you have some shares, it’s much easier to get onboard a fishing boat.
Even though Alaska has the largest population of black cod in the world. They are not easy to catch. Fishermen use longlines, trawling gear, and pots to harvest these fish, which are then processed before they are shipped all over the world.
In 2015, the North Pacific Fisheries Council approved the use of black cod pots in the Gulf of Alaska to protect their harvest from opportunistic killer and sperm whales. Recently some smart sperm and killer whales discovered how easy it it to get a good meal by eating black cod right off of Alaska black cod fishermen’s longlines. Here is an article for more details – http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/feds-approve-cod-pots-to-outsmart-opportunistic-whales/.
Working as a deckhand on a black cod fishing boat in Alaska can be very lucrative. Most of these longlining boats also fish for halibut which can also make you lots of money. Since the fishery is based on an IFQ system, there is little pressure to fish when the weather is bad and the conditions are unsafe. A combination of excellent earning potential and relatively safe fishing conditions makes this one of our most recommended fisheries to work in as a deckhand.
In the Members Section of AlaskaJobFinder we outline proven strategies on how to research and apply for black cod deckhand jobs.
If you’ve been dreaming of heading to Alaska to work in the black cod fishery, you may find yourself in postcard perfect locations like the Cook inlet, the Bering Sea, Prince William Sound, the Aleutian Islands, the Gulf of Alaska, and Southeast Alaska. The most successful black cod ports are…
All of these scenic locales are great places to set up shop for the IFQ black cod season, which typically runs March 1 to November 15th. If you plan ahead, you could be making your summer paycheck from the black cod fishery. You might even make enough money to pay for school or pay off your mortgage.
Learn More: Interview with a Black Cod Longliner Deckhand
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