Pollock, Alaska, Walleye

Theragra chalcogramma

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Pacific (FAO 67)
Stock area — Alaska
Stock detail — Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Pollock, Alaska, Walleye

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

Alaskan pollock is both the largest food fish resource and largest whitefish fishery in the world. Over 1.426 million tons were landed in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, worth about $400 million. Stocks in Alaskan waters (Gulf of Alaska (GOA), Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI)) are managed by a system of Total Allowable Catches and seasonal quotas, set by US North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC). Together the Barents Sea cod fishery and the Russian Far East (Western Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk), pollock fishery account for between 20 and 25% of the global catch of whitefish.

The U.S. BSAI and Gulf of Alaska pollock fishery are not overfished and not undergoing overfishing. They are well managed by a system of Total Allowable Catches and individual vessel quotas. Although bycatch is very low in pelagic mid-water trawl fisheries in general, measures are continually being developed and analysed for this fishery to reduce the impact of the fishery on other species (Protected species such as Steller sea lion, salmon and crab). The Gulf of Alaska Pollock fishery is the best choice. If choosing from fisheries in Russia, choose the Marine Stewardship Council certified pollock.

Biology

A member of the cod family, Alaska pollock is found throughout temperate and colder waters of the north Pacific and is the most abundant fish species in the Bering Sea, including areas under U.S. fisheries management jurisdiction. It is a relatively fast growing and short lived species and is sexually mature at around 3-4 years. Pollock have high fecundity or potential reproductive capacity - female pollock can produce more than two million eggs over the course of several weeks. It spawns in early spring from February to April and they can grow to about 90 cm and attain ages of 15-17 years. A more typical age is 5-6. Found in depths down to 900 m the species is also known as walleye pollock because of its large, distinctive eyes.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

Alaska

Stock information

Neither stocks in the Aleution Islands (AI) or East Bering Sea (EBS) are overfished or undergoing overfishing.

The EBS stock SSB/BMSY for 2018 is 2.08.

The Aleutian Islands stock SSB/B35% is estimated at 1.1 in 2018. Fishing mortality is within safe limits.

Management

Criterion score: 0 info

The pollock fishery in this area is managed by the groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The FMP encompasses a range of species, which are managed using a suite of management measures to protect the stock and ecosystem. These measures include Total Allowable Catches (TACs), spatial and temporal closures and monitoring through high observer coverage and Vessel Monitoring Systems. The stock is assessed regularly, with a variety of fishery-dependent and independent survey methods. All vessels in this groundfish fisheries require a Federal groundfish licence.

To reduce general bycatch in the fishery, the management plan also restricts bycatch to no more than 5% of the total round weight of pollock caught and the Alaskan State limits the proportion of bycatch for particular species. Of particular concern is the impact of the pollock fishery on salmon: there are measures in place to reduce Chinook bycatch. For example, the SeaState system is a real-time bycatch data system to alert vessels of salmon hotspots. There are also limits of permitted Chinook salmon catches in the pollock fishery and industry-designed incentive programmes. Protected species must be returned to the water unless otherwise stated. Where protected species can be retained, there are strict catch limits and monitoring to estimate the impact on the species. To reduce the impact of the fishery on endangered Steller sea lions, exclusion zones and changes to fishing areas at particularl times of year. There are also limits to the number of vessels allowed to fish in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands (BSAI) pollock fishery. Since the US extended its fisheries management jurisdiction to 200 miles in 1976, the BSAI pollock fishery has operated under science-based catch limits and under an ecosystem-based management approach.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Bycatch in the Alaskan pollock fishery is generally small, averaging around 1% of the total catch. However, the pollock fishery is very large and this amount of bycatch can still be harmful. Bycatch normally consists of cod, flounder, salmon, small pelagics, rockfish, squid, skates and shark. These species are normally managed under a Fishery Management Plan or complex.
br> The pollock fishery is responsible for some catches of Endangered, Threatened and Protected species and the fishery is designated as a Category II fishery by the US fisheries government department, NMFS. This means that there is the occasional incidental mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. In this stock, Bearded Seal, Dall’s porpoise, Harbor seal, Humpback whale, Humpback whale, Northern fur seal, Ribbon seal, Ringed seal, Spotted seal and Steller sea lion are the marine mammals that are considered to be at risk. Therefore, the fishery has implemented a 100% observer coverage program to adequately report interactions.

To reduce competition for resources, large near-shore areas around the sea lion rookeries of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska are now off-limits to trawling. These measures to protect sea lions have proven effective in a number of areas, but recently a small segment of the Steller sea lion population in the western Aleutian Islands was failing to recover at expected rates hence more fishery closures in that region have been enacted. Due to increasing populations in, the eastern segment, the Eastern population is now no longer listed as threatened.

Of particular concern, are catches of Chinook salmon because they can be caught in large numbers in the Western Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea fisheries. Therefore, further measures to reduce salmon bycatch were developed in April 2015, and a comprehensive salmon bycatch avoidance program was developed in 2016. These included more severe Prohibited Species Catch (PSC) limits for when Alaskan Chinook salmon abundance is low, reducing fishing quotas when bycatch is higher and mandating the use of salmon excluders in trawl nets. There are also real-time spatial and temporal closures. Chinook bycatch in 2015 was about half of the 2003-2015 average - which is likely due to the recently implemented management.

Limits of shark bycatch has averaged 171 t since 1997 and is counted against annual catch limits. Shark bycatch such as the Sleeper shark have dramatically decreased over the last decade, though some species such as sculpin have increased in bycatch studies.

The fishery interacts with relatively few seabirds.

Habitat
The risk to the seabed is generally low in pelagic trawls. There is some risk of interaction between the gear and the seafloor and there is little management in place to mitigate the impacts.

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia

References



Bowen, D., Rice, J., Trumble, R.J. 2016. MSC Public Certification Report for Alaska Pollock Bering Sea-Aleutian Islands

NOAA. 2018. North Pacific Observer Program. Available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/alaska/fisheries-observers/north-pacific-observer-program

NOAA. 2018. Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division History. Available at: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/alaska/fisheries-observers/fisheries-monitoring-and-analysis-division-history

Alaska Marine Conservation council. 2018. Fishery Observer Program. Available at: http://www.akmarine.org/tag/fishery-observer-program/

NOAA. 2018. List of Fisheries. Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/02/07/2018-02442/list-of-fisheries-for-2018

James N. Ianelli, Diana L. Stram; Estimating impacts of the pollock fishery bycatch on western Alaska Chinook salmon, ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 72, Issue 4, 1 May 2015, Pages 1159-1172, https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu173

http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=walleyepollock.management

North Pacific Fishery Management Council. 2017. Fishery Management Plan for the Groundfish of the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area. Anchorage, Alaska . Available at: https://www.npfmc.org/wp-content/PDFdocuments/fmp/BSAI/BSAIfmp.pdf.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2015. Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) . Available at: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=walleyepollock.management. [Accessed on 15.08.2018].

Ianelli, J., Kotwicki, S. Honkalehto, T., Holsman, K., Fissel, B. 2017. Chapter 1: Assessment of the Walleye Pollock Stock in the East Bering Sea. Seattle, WA.Available at: https://www.afsc.noaa.gov/REFM/Docs/2017/EBSpollock.pdf

Barbeaux, S., Ianelli, J., Palsson, W. 2017. Chapter 1A Assessment of the Pollock Stock in the Aleutian Islands. Available at: https://www.afsc.noaa.gov/REFM/Docs/2017/AIpollock.pdf.