2016 Assessment of the Octopus Stock Complex in the Gulf of Alaska
The Gulf of Alaska (GOA) octopus complex is assessed on a biennial stock assessment schedule with full assessments provided in odd years. In even years we present an executive summary to recommend harvest levels for the next two years.
Through 2010, octopuses were managed as part of the “other species” complex, with catch reported only in the aggregate along with sharks, squids, and sculpins. Due to increasing market interest, retention of some members of the other species complex members increased. In 2011, the GOA Fishery Management Plan was amended to provide separate management for sharks, sculpins, and octopus. In compliance with the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act, each group has its own annual catch limit. Catch limits for octopus for 2011-2014 were set based on the average of the last 3 surveys as a minimum biomass estimate. For 2015-2017 the random effects model applied to survey biomass estimates is used to provide a minimum biomass estimate.
For management purposes, all octopus species are grouped into a single assemblage. At least seven species of octopus are found in the GOA. 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; results of these studies are summarized in Appendix A1.