The Alaska Pollock Sustainable Fishery Opens in Alaska

The harvest season for Alaska pollock opens January 20. The 2013 Alaska pollock Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska is 1,387,146 metric tons, 3.8% higher than last year’s TAC of 1,335,944 metric tons. Alaska pollock accounts for approximately 30% of all U.S. seafood landings by weight.

The delicate, mild whitefish is a popular ingredient in a variety of seafood dishes and consumer products such as breaded fish sticks, fish sandwiches and Alaska Surimi Seafood products, say company officials; delicious whether poached, baked, broiled, steamed, sautéed or deep-fried, Alaska pollock is high in protein and long-chain omega-3s and low in fat.

The Alaska pollock fishery is a model of sustainability for the world, officials add. Harvested using mid-water trawls designed to minimize the effects on the marine environment, the Alaska pollock fishery is one of the ‘cleanest’ in the world, averaging 1% of non-targeted species (bycatch) annually. The comprehensive federal pollock observer program assigns federally trained scientists to all harvesting vessels and processing locations in order to monitor and record all catches of Alaska pollock and any incidentally caught species. In addition, all vessels are equipped with Vessel Monitoring Systems that track vessel locations at all times.

The annual Alaska pollock TAC is set by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which uses the best research available to determine sustainable catch levels. Using decades of survey information and population estimates, scientists make a conservative recommendation each year on the amount of Alaska pollock that can be sustainably harvested, also known as the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC). Based on the scientists’ recommendation, the Council sets the annual TAC, or quota, for the fishery and for the past 30 years, the TAC has been set at or below the ABC to ensure the continued success of the Alaska pollock fishery. This reliance on science is a hallmark of Alaska’s sustainable fisheries management system.

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