Pollock, Alaska, Walleye

Theragra chalcogramma

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North West Pacific (FAO 61)
Stock area — Western Bering Sea
Stock detail — Western Bering Sea
Picture of Pollock, Alaska, Walleye

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

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.

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

Stock Area

Western Bering Sea

Stock information

The Marine Stewardship Council has not certified the Western Bering Sea component of the pollock fishery. The biomass was above the limit reference point in the 2015 assessment, though about half of the target reference point. Some areas such as the Olyotorskiy-Karagin population are below the limit reference point which could endanger the stock.

Management

Federal Fisheries Agency (FFA) is responsible for the management of the pollock fishery. Alaska pollock are also found in international waters where no country has sole jurisdiction. The Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea is responsible for the conservation, management, and best use of pollock resource in the high seas of the Bering Sea. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a concern in the Western Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, where landings of illegal fish are thought to be high. IUU fisheries have serious consequences for Arctic ecosystems.

Capture Information

There are little data available to determine the impact of the Western Bering Sea pollock fishery on the bycatch, habitat and ecosystem. Though studies available show that there are low levels of bycatch (<2%). Some ETP species are caught, particularly, marine mammals and sharks. From interviews conducted with fishermen in the 1980s, in the Western Bering sea, around 6% of hauls caught high levels of Steller sea lions (high levels; an average of 10 Steller Sea lions caught per haul) and the other 94% of hauls caught a low level of Steller sea lions (about 1 per haul). The western Bering Sea trawl fishery may contact sensitive habitats due to the depth that the fishery occurs (down to 500 m). One study has shown that in the Eastern Bering Sea, pollock mid-water trawls contacted the ocean floor 44% of the time. There are little data available to understand the fishery’s impacts on the habitat. Bycatch in general is thought to be low, as are impacts on the seabed. However, the effect of bycatch and cascade ecosystem impacts on Steller sea lions is unknown here. This is an issue that is being dealt with in the eastern Bering Sea fishery under U.S. management where the species is protected under the Endangered Species Act, however no assumption can be made in Russian waters due to lack of evidence and legal protections afforded under U.S. law.

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

PCA (Pollock Catchers Association). 2010. Information Submissions for MSC Certification Assessment of Sea of Okhotsk, Navarinsk, and West Bering Sea - Principles 1, 2, and 3. Available at: https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/exiting-the-program/withdrawn/Russia-Bering-Sea-pollock/assessment-downloads and https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/pacific/russia-sea-of-okhotsk-pollock/assessment-downloads

Fomin, S., Belonovich, O., and V. Burkanov. 2014b. The First Estimation of Steller Sea Lion Bycatch in the Western Bering Sea in 1980s. A presentation to the 2014 Alaska Seagrant Wakefield Fisheries Symposium Fisheries Bycatch: Global Issues and Creative Solutions. May 13-16, 2014, Anchorage, AK. Available at: https://seagrant.uaf.edu/events/2014/wakefield-bycatch/posters/fomin-estimation-sea-lion.pdf