2014 Assessment of the Octopus Stock Complex in the Gulf of Alaska
In 2011, the GOA fisheries management plan was amended to provide separate management for, several groups formerly in the “other species” category, including octopus. In compliance with the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens act, each group must have its own annual catch limit. Catch limits for octopus for 2011 - 2014 were set under Tier 6 with an alternative method based on using the average of the last 3 surveys as a minimum biomass estimate. This method is continued for 2015- 2016.
For management purposes, all octopus species are grouped into a single assemblage. At least seven species of octopus are found in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). The species composition both of the natural community and the commercial harvest is not well documented, but research indicates that the Giant Pacific octopus Enteroctopus dofleini is the most abundant octopus species in shelf waters and makes up the bulk of octopus catches in commercial fisheries. Octopuses are taken as incidental catch in trawl, longline, and pot fisheries throughout the GOA; a portion of the catch is retained or sold for human consumption or bait. The highest octopus catch rates are from Pacific cod pot fisheries in the central and western GOA (NMFS statistical areas 610 and 630).
In general, the state of knowledge about octopus in the GOA is poor. A number of research studies and special projects have been initiated in recent years to increase knowledge for this assemblage; these include studies of delayed mortality of discarded octopus and development of an octopus-specific fishing gear for possible scientific use. A review by the Center for Independent Experts of the stock assessments for North Pacific non-target species was conducted in May 2013. Suggestions and recommendations from this review are discussed below.