"Bering Sea Pollock Survey Finds Fewer Fish Than Anticipated"

"Government researchers have released data indicating that Alaska's Bering Sea pollock population remains low.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists in Seattle presented their preliminary findings to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Plan Team, which is reviewing stock assessments prior to issuing a full report in November.

The pollock fishery in the eastern Bering is the nation's largest commercial fish harvest by weight, and it is Alaska's most valuable fishery, worth nearly $1 billion annually.

Low pollock numbers could mean another year of costly fishing reductions for the trawl fleet and the communities that hold a lucrative stake in the fishery. But next year's total allowable catch will not be set until after the North Pacific council reviews additional reports and takes public testimony. In December, the council will recommend next year's catch size to NOAA, which makes the final decision.

Long lauded for running a sustainable fishery, the pollock trawl fleet has come under increasing attack from environmentalists and some Western Alaska villages as pollock stocks have ebbed and the fleet's incidental take of king salmon -- called bycatch -- has trended up for much of the decade."

Elizabeth Bluemink reports for the Anchorage Daily News September 18, 2009.

Monday, September 21, 2009