ALASKA PLAICE (Pleuronectes quadrituberculatus) Harvested throughout the year, Alaska plaice is one of the major shallow water flatfish species in the Eastern Bering Sea ecosystem. They are highly concentrated in the shallow continental shelf waters of the Eastern Bering Sea. Since implementation of the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA) in 1977 Alaska plaice generally have been lightly harvested. No major commercial fishery targets this species.
Catches of the Alaska plaice increased approximately 1,000 tons in 1971 to a peak of 62,000 ton in 1988, the first year of joint venture processing (JVP). Part of the increase was due to increased species identification and reporting of catches in the 1970’s. A variety of fisheries in the BSAI area account for the harvest of Alaska plaice.
From 2002 to 2006, the yellowfin sole fishery accounted for 87% of the catch, with flathead sole, rock sole and Pacific cod fisheries making up the remainder. Alaska plaice are grouped with rock sole, flathead sole and other flatfish fisheries under a common prohibited species catch (PSC) limit. In recent years, these fisheries have been closed prior to attainment of total allowable catch (TAC) due to the bycatch of halibut. Typically, they are also closed during the first quarter due to a seasonal bycatch cap. Alaska plaice were placed on bycatch status each spring from 2005 to 2007 due to attainment of a very low TAC – relative to the allowable biological catch (ABC) – for this species. Current stock assessments characterize Alaska plaice as being in a high and stable condition.