Walleye Pollock Management and Research
Federal fisheries for walleye pollock occur in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea Aleutian Islands. In the Gulf of Alaska, winter fishing has traditionally targeted pre-spawning aggregations in Shelikof Strait and the Shumagin Islands. Summer fishing has often occurred on the east side of Kodiak Island and along the Alaska Peninsula. Beginning in 1992, the Gulf of Alaska pollock Total Allowable Catch has been apportioned temporally and spatially to try to reduce negative impacts on Steller sea lions. The entire Gulf of Alaska pollock quota is allocated to the inshore sector. Winter fishing in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands is concentrated on spawning aggregations on the continental shelf of the eastern Bering Sea, mainly north and west of Unimak Island. Fall fishing has recently concentrated near Unimak Island and along the 100 m contour northwest of the Pribilof Islands. Measures have been taken to try to reduce potential negative impacts of the pollock fishery on endangered Steller sea lions. These measures have included fishery exclusion zones around sea lion rookeries and haulouts and changes in seasonal apportionments to reduce catch near critical habitat and temporally disperse the fishery. Former fishing grounds in the Aleutian Islands were closed to pollock fishing in 2000. Limitations have been placed on the number of vessels participating in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands pollock fisheries. The Bering Sea Aleutian Islands quota has been allocated among the western Alaska Community Development Quota program and the inshore, offshore and mothership sectors of the industry.
Parallel fisheries for pollock take place in state waters around Kodiak Island, in the Chignik Area, and along the South Alaska Peninsula. An open access state-waters fishery takes place in Prince William Sound (PWS); the guideline harvest level (GHL) for this fishery is deducted from the combined federal Western, Central, and West Yakutat Gulf of Alaska Regulatory Area (W/C/WYAK) acceptable biological catch (ABC), and has ranged from a low of 2.0 million lb in 2004 and 2005 to a high of 8.5 million lb in 2014. The management plan (5 AAC 28.263) specifies that fishery occurs in three section located within the Inside District; no more than 60 percent of the GHL may be taken from any one section in order to reduce potential impacts on the endangered population of Steller sea lions by geographically apportioning the catch. The management plan also restricts bycatch to no more than 5 percent of the total round weight of pollock harvested, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) further manages bycatch by apportioning the percentage among the following species groups: rockfish (0.5%), salmon (0.04%), shark (0.96%), squid (3.0%), and other species (0.5%). The directed fishery for pollock in PWS has typically experienced low bycatch rates relative to many other groundfish fisheries. Currently, the GHL is determined as 2.5 percent of the combined W/C/WYAK ABC based on the GHL historical percent average from 2001 to 2010. ADF&G has and may reserve a percentage of the calculated GHL for a test fishery. Revenues from these test fisheries are used to fund PWS commercial fishery management, including groundfish stock assessment and inseason pollock catch sampling.
Over 95% of the pollock catch in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands is taken with pelagic trawls. In the Gulf of Alaska,90% of the catch is also taken using pelagic rawls. In both the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea Aleutian Islands there is a small incidental catch with hook and line and pot gear. Since 1995, a pelagic trawl fishery in Prince William Sound has targeted pollock. In the 5-year period ending 2002 pollock harvests have averaged almost 2.9 billion pounds (1.3 million tons (mt)) in the federal fishery and have varied from a high of almost 118 million pounds (53,000 mt) in the state fishery in 1998 to a recent low of about 2.5 million pounds (1,200 mt) in 2002. The federal fishery had an average of 196 permitted vessels and the catch yielded an average exvessel value of almost $267 million. Counterpart values for the state fishery were six permits and almost $215 thousand.