The Alaska Pollock Fishery

   A Case Study of Successful Fisheries Management

The Alaska pollock fishery is the largest U.S. fishery.

Since the U.S. established a 200-mile fishing zone in 1976, pollock harvests have averaged 2.5 billion pounds annually on a sustainable basis.  APA catcher/processors fish for Alaska pollock in U.S. waters of the Bering Sea.  This fishery alone accounts for almost one-third of all U.S. seafood landings by weight.  APA vessels do not participate in the much smaller Alaska pollock fishery conducted in the Gulf of Alaska.

The pollock resource in U.S. waters off Alaska remains abundant and robust, and both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries have been certified by an international team of scientists as sustainable and responsibly managed under the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) program.  See www.msc.org.   

The Pollock Resource is Healthy and Abundant.

Walleye Pollock

The large continental shelf off Alaska’s coast and the favorable ocean currents extant in the region provide a rich mix of nutrients to sustain large populations of Alaska pollock and other groundfish species.  Conservative management ensures that these important fish stocks are sustainably managed. 

There is Good Fisheries Science and Managers Take a Precautionary Approach.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, conducts trawl surveys annually and hydro-acoustic surveys at least triennially to assess the abundance of pollock and other North Pacific groundfish species.  The survey results, and other relevant data and information, form the basis for estimates of pollock abundance and determinations of the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) level, which indicates the amount of fish that can be harvested on a sustainable basis.  Where there is uncertainty due to lack of data, fishery scientists and managers employ a precautionary approach, which requires managers to act conservatively when there is uncertainty.  To ensure that a broad range of scientific views are taken into account, NMFS scientists work closely with state and university scientists.  See www.afsc.noaa.gov.

Fishery Managers Set Conservative Harvest Levels.

Based on the fish population models developed by NMFS, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is advised by its scientific panel, recommends the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) level.  The TAC is set at, or below, the ABC level.  All fish harvested, whether processed at-sea or onshore, is weighed to ensure an accurate catch accounting.  All fish caught counts against the quota for that species.  Fisheries close when the allotted harvest level is reached.  See www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/.

There is a Comprehensive Federal Fishery Observer Program.

Every pollock catcher/processor vessel carries onboard two federal fishery observers to monitor and record catches and to conduct scientific research.  The observers are trained and certified by NMFS, and they sample 99% of pollock tows by catcher/processor vessels. All pollock cather vesselsalso carry an observer.  The fishing industry pays the cost of observer coverage.  The North Pacific groundfish observer program is the most comprehensive fishery observer program in the nation.  

Pollock Fishing Has Minimal Impact on the Habitat.

Pollock vessels tow cone-shaped, mid-water trawl nets to harvest the resource.  Pollock swim in enormously large schools above the ocean floor.  The fishing nets do not drag along the ocean bottom.  In fact, federal regulations prohibit “bottom trawling” for pollock.

fishing sunset

The Pollock Fishery Is One of the “Cleanest” Fisheries in the World.

Bycatch is defined in U.S. fisheries law as fish that are harvested but discarded either for economic or regulatory reasons.  For U.S. pollock catcher/processors, pollock comprises almost 99 percent of what is caught in the net.  Of the species allowed by law to be retained, much of it is also processed.  The pollock catcher/processor fleet annual discard rate of approximately 0.5% of the total catch compares very favorably with the average bycatch (or discard) rate for world fisheries of 25%. 

There Is Full Utilization of the Pollock Resource.

Federal regulations require that all pollock and Pacific cod be retained regardless of the groundfish species being targeted.  Pollock processors produce fillets, surimi, and roe. Many U.S. pollock processors also make fishmeal from inedible portions of the fish and fish oil, which is burned as fuel in boilers on the vessel to provide a cleaner energy source.  

Fish Harvesting Cooperatives Resolved Problems of Excess Fishing Capacity and Provide Conservation Benefits.

Pollock fishermen formed fish harvesting cooperatives to “rationalize” fishing activities, including resolving problems of overcapacity, promoting conservation and enhancing utilization of fishery resources.  Under a co-op arrangement, fewer vessels are fishing and daily catch rates by participating vessels are significantly reduced since the “race for fish” ended in 1999.  In the past several years, catcher/processors also increased the amount of products produced from each pound of pollock by almost 50 percent.  

Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers
The Alaska pollock fishery is widely recognized and certified as a well-managed and sustainable fishery. For information about Alaska pollock products, please contact APA member companies directly or visit the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers website at www.alaskapollock.org.

> FAQs

> Ecosystem - Based Management

> Catcher / Processor Illustration

> Bering Sea Map

> Marine Protected Areas

> Alaska Pollock Biomass Graph

> Alaska Groundfish and Pacific Whiting as Percentage of U.S. Catch

> Glossary of Fishing Terms

> Overview Of North Pacific Council's Sustainable Fisheries Management

Home | Our Directory | Alaska Pollock Fishery | Sustainability | Press Page | Learn More

Fish Links | Associate Program ˆReturn to Topˆ


Phone: (206) 285-5139

All content © 2006 At Sea Processors. All rights reserved.