Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North West Pacific (FAO 61)
Stock area — Okhotsk Sea
Stock detail — Okhotsk Sea
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
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. managed Alaska pollock fisheries in the eastern Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska fisheries were certified to the MSC Standard in 2005. In September 2013 the pollock fishery in the Russian EEZ waters of the Okhotsk Sea was certified as an environmentally responsible fishery. Pollock from fisheries certified to the MSC standard is the best choice when buying Alaska pollock. Pollock, including fisheries managed in Russian and U.S. waters, is both the largest food fish resource and largest whitefish fishery in the world.
Biomass is above reference points and the fishery is not undergoing overfishing. SSB2016 = 5.991 million tonnes, and Btr = 5,089,000 tonnes. Therefore, B2016/BMSY = 1.18. Fishing mortality has increased in recent years, F2016 = 0.22 and Ftr = 0.24, therefore, F/Ftr = 0.92. Reference points are proxies for MSY.x005F_x000D The Marine Stewardship Council fishery is managed under a harvest strategy for the fishery with controls such as licensing and quotas. Licences are issued by the Federal Fisheries Agency of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and there is a coastguard for fisheries control and surveillance. Scientific monitoring includes trawl surveys and some observer coverage. Bycatch in general is thought to be low, though there are impacts on the seabed. There have been some interactions with seabirds such as fulmars, Steller sea lions, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout (as these species may overlap with the Sea of Okhotsk pollock fishery). There is a lack of consideration for the impact of fishing mortality on the ecosystem.
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.
Criterion score: 0.25 info
The biomass of pollock in this area is at healthy levels. There are reference points for the stock, which are proxies for the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). SSB2016 = 5.991 million tonnes, and Btr = 5,089,000 tonnes. Therefore, B2016/BMSY = 1.18.
Fishing mortality has increased in recent years, but are still at acceptable levels. F2016 = 0.22 and Ftr = 0.24, therefore, F/Ftr = 0.92.
Criterion score: 0.25 info
The Marine Stewardship Council fishery employs a range of management measures under a harvest strategy. Catches are limited by quotas and area closures are in place for vulnerable locations. Vessels must have licences, which are are issued by the Federal Fisheries Agency of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. All vessels have Vessel Monitoring Systems installed and there is a daily catch reporting log. Landings are verified by inspectors. The FSB acts as a Coastguard for fisheries control and surveillance, including at-sea inspections. Scientific monitoring includes trawl surveys and between 13.9% and 23.1% observer coverage. Observer data suggest that fishers generally comply with bycatch regulations.
Stock assessements are conducted annually, albeit, the reference points rely on proxies for MSY. Also, the current method for calculating the total allowable catch does not sufficiently address the impact of pollock fishing mortality on the ecosystem.
There are regulations in place to reduce bycatch, including temporal and spatial closures. For example, if bycatch exceeds 2% of the pollock catch, the excess catch must be discarded and the vessel must relocate at least 5 miles from the area. Vessels catching vessels are not permitted to retain more than 49% of a bycatch species.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
The mesh size used in the pollock fishery is 100 mm and therefore, the pelagic trawls used in the fishery generally have low levels of bycatch. The only other main species caught in the fishery is herring. Other species caught in the fishery, such as cod and halibut, represent a very small proportion compared to what is caught in the cod and halibut target fisheries. Lajus et al. (2018) have reported that there are high levels of undersized immature fish as bycatch, and can exceed established limits.
There have been some interactions with seabirds such as fulmars, short-tailed albatross, Steller sea lions, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. To protect Steller Sea lions, trawling is prohibited within 30 nautical miles of the Kuril and Magadan reserves, where the species have important rookeries and haul-outs. Whilst there are prohibitions for taking protected species, it is unknown how effective measures are to protect these species. There is a lack of consideration for the impact of fishing mortality on the ecosystem.
The pelagic trawl rarely comes into contact with the seabed and therefore, has minimal impact on the habitat.
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
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
ReferencesPayne, A.I.L., OaBoyle, R., Japp, D.W., 2018. MSC SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES CERTIFICATION: Russia Sea of Okhotsk Pollock: Final Report. Acoura Marine Ltd.
Lajus, D., Stogova, D. and Keskitalo, E. (2018). The implementation of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in Russia: Achievements and considerations. Marine Policy, 90, pp.105-114.