by Marine Conservation Alliance
Backs council decision to reduce pollock catch during cyclic downturn
December 12, 2007
The 26 percent reduction, down from 2007's catch of 1.35 million tons, was taken by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council as a precautionary measure to protect the pollock stock during a predicted downward trend.
"This cyclic downturn was not unexpected. The responsible course of action is to follow our scientists' recommendation to reduce harvests as a precautionary measure," said MCA executive director David Benton. "This has been the way we've done business in Alaska for over 30 years with the result that there are no overfished stocks."
The action followed the recommendations by the Council's Scientific and Statistical Committee and Groundfish Plan Team and was based on recent stock assessment data including annual surveys of Bering Sea groundfish. Those same surveys found indications that the pollock stock may see new recruitment over the next few years.
"We've known this downturn was coming because a large age class of fish that dominated the population was naturally getting older. Fortunately, it seems a new age class may soon replace them," Benton said. "Preliminary indications are the recruitment of new pollock in 2006 was the largest in ten years. That's a positive sign but until it can be verified, we support the scientists' view to err on the side of conservation."
Bering Sea pollock is one of the world's most abundant fisheries and accounts for a third of all fish harvested in the U.S. Fluctuations in the catch level are not unusual. Pollock catch limits were held below 1 million tons from 1977 to 1983. More recently, the catch limit dropped to 980,000 tons in 1999 after which the fishery rebounded and produced record catches of almost 1.5 million tons from 2002 to 2006.
"Bering Sea pollock is
one of the world's most abundant fishery resources and is a dynamic
population," Benton said. "Despite this cyclic trend,
the pollock resource is still healthy and it will remain healthy
as long as we continue to follow our scientists' recommendations.
That approach is why Alaska is respected around the globe as
a model of fishery management."
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