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Pollock Stocks Rebound MCA Supports Scientific Approach to Setting Catch Levels

The Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA), a coalition of harvesters, processors and communities involved in the Alaska groundfish and crab fisheries, renewed its support today for scientifically set catch limits. As projected last year, Bering Sea pollock stocks are staging a rebound, following a two year downturn.

Federal scientists have determined that the overall biomass of Bering Sea pollock has virtually doubled, going from roughly 4.6 million metric tons in 2010, to 9.6 million metric tons for 2011.

"This is good news" stated Dave Benton, Executive Director of the Marine Conservation Alliance. "The scientists predicted this upturn last year. It is gratifying to see that sticking with the science pays off," Benton said.

This week, federal stock assessment scientists reviewed the results of the latest scientific survey of Bering Sea groundfish conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These scientists, as part of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's  Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Groundfish Plan Team, will be providing their recommendations to the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee, who in turn will  review these findings and recommend 2011 catch levels.

The Plan Team will be recommending an Acceptable Biological Catch level of approximately 1.2 million metric tons for 2011, up from a little over 800,000 metric tons in 2010. The scientists also again found that Bering Sea pollock are not overfished.

Benton noted that the conservative catch setting process employed by the Council has again served the resource and the industry well.

"For the last two years, we unequivocally supported reduced harvest levels as recommended by the scientists. Now, even though the biomass has doubled, actual allowed catches will only increase by about one third. That is ok with us. These conservative measures are how we have done business in Alaska for roughly 30 years. It's why we have sustainable fisheries for the long haul," Benton said.

Bering Sea pollock is one of the world's largest fisheries and accounts for a third of all fish harvested in the U.S.  Such fluctuations in the catch are not unusual.  Pollock catch limits were held below 1 million tons from 1977, the year the 200 mile limit went into effect, to 1983.  The catch limit dropped to 980,000 tons in 1999 after which the stocks rebounded and produced record catches of almost 1.5 million tons from 2002 to 2006. The catch in 2010 was roughly 800,000 metric tons.

Based in Juneau, the Marine Conservation Alliance is a coalition of seafood processors, fishermen, coastal communities and support industries involved in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska groundfish and crab fisheries.  The MCA promotes science-based conservation measures to ensure sustainable fisheries in Alaska.  For more information, visit www.marineconservationalliance.org.

Contacts: 
  • David Benton, MCA,  (907) 523-0731
  • Dave Witherell, NPFMC Deputy Director, (907) 271-2809
  • Jim Ianelli, pollock stock assessment biologist NMFS, (206) 679-6674
  • Pat Livingston, Chair NPFMC Scientific and Statistical Committee (SSC) (206) 526-4172
  • Dr. Doug DeMaster, Science and Research Director, Alaska Fishery Science Center, (206) 526-4047

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