The pollock B season closed last Tuesday, and now the final harvest numbers are out.
Over 1.16 million metric tons of pollock were caught in the Bering Sea this year. That’s enough to make more than 3 billion boxes of fish sticks.
But even though that sounds like a lot of fish, this wasn’t the greatest year for the pollock fleet. Many boats were fishing right up to the season’s end in hopes of catching their quota, and some vessels gave up on that prospect altogether. According to Josh Keaton with the National Marine Fisheries Service, that makes this an unusual year.
“In a normal year, the pollock fishery harvests their entire quota,” says Keaton. “This year, due to reasons unknown, the pollock fishery was unable to harvest their entire pollock quota and left about 63,000 metric tons in the water.”
This year, fishermen were allowed to catch 1.23 million metric tons of pollock, a big jump over the past few years’ levels. They ended up harvesting about 95 percent of that. Keaton says that the amount of pollock in the Bering Sea has gone up, but:
“They just weren’t as concentrated as they normally were. It takes a lot longer to tow, to get the same amount of pollock as in a normal year,” says Keaton.
Meanwhile, a slow pollock season could be good news for other fisheries. By regulation, only 2 million metric tons of pollock can be taken out of the Bering Sea each year, with pollock making up the bulk of that. Keaton says that if the pollock quota goes down, then fisheries like Pacific cod and rockfish could get a boost.
“With pollock [total allowable catch] not being completely taken, I believe that gives other gear goups and other fisheries sectors an ability to get more quota if they can show that they can use it,” says Keaton.
Next week, scientists will be meeting in Seattle to discuss next year’s harvest levels.