BILLION-DOLLAR, ‘BEST-MANAGED’ FISHERY A DISASTER

Pollock Decline Continues; Fur Seals Move Closer to Endangered Species Listing

Media release - September 18, 2009
Responding to an announcement from the National Marine Fisheries Service reporting the results of this year’s pollock stock survey, John Hocevar, Greenpeace oceans campaigner director in the U.S., offered the following statement:

"Contrary to projections, pollock stocks have not recovered, remaining at near record low levels. While the fishing industry and others continue to cite the pollock fishery as a model of fisheries management, the pollock population has declined sharply in recent years. In spite of concerns raised by Greenpeace and many scientists, unsustainable fishing rates have been allowed to continue, as has heavy trawling on spawning aggregations.

"The fate of pollock has dire implications for the ecosystem, due to the importance of these fish as a food source for everything from whales and fur seals to endangered Steller sea lions. Pribilof fur seal populations have been dropping steadily, with females spending longer and longer at sea looking for fish. When even the 'best managed fishery in the world' is in this kind of trouble, it is clearly time for policymakers to rethink the way we take care of our oceans.  We need a network of marine reserves not only in the Bering Sea, but as part of a global network of protected areas to stop the devastation of our oceans.

"What we are witnessing with pollock is yet another example of a global overfishing problem that stretches from bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean to the hoki off New Zealand. Clearly, the collapse was not enough to convince governments that they are fishing out our oceans.

"When the pollock, tuna and hoki are gone, what will the boats take next? Will governments take a precautionary approach so we still have a fishing industry for the next generation, or will they just keep going until the nets come up empty?"

Background: The Alaska pollock is the white fish used in markets worldwide, from everyday fish fingers to fish-fillet sandwiches, and from processed seafood sold as crabmeat to caviar- like delicacies. It is a billion-dollar industry.

This year, NMFS conducted two types of surveys to estimate the health of the pollock population: a bottom trawl survey and an echointegration survey. The bottom trawl survey abundance estimate was the lowest on record, and the biomass estimate was down 23 percent from last year. The echo integration survey results, which better reflect the number of younger fish, also revealed a decline in biomass of eight percent to .916 million metric tons, down from .997 million metric tons the previous year.

In the U.S., President Obama's handpicked Jane Lubchenco, a prominent marine biologist and outspoken advocate for fisheries management reform to head the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). As a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Lubchenco cited the need for ecosystem-based management to prevent the nation's fisheries from collapsing. The Alaska pollock fishery, the world's largest, is a good place to start.

Currently the Greenpeace ships Rainbow Warrior and Esperanza are in the Mediterranean and Pacific as part of the global campaign for a network of fully-protected marine reserves covering 40 percent of our oceans. Marine reserves are essential to protect marine life from overfishing and habitat destruction, and can play a vital role in building resilience against the devastating effects of climate change.

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VVPR info: Contact: Jane Kochersperger, Media Officer, Greenpeace, (202) 319- 2493 direct; (202) 680-3798 cell; John Hocevar, (512) 577-3868 cell

Notes: Rethinking Sustainability, an in-depth critique of the pollock fishery, is available online at www.greenpeaceusa.org/rethinking Greenpeace’s Coral Data for Bering Sea Canyons is available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/press-center/reports4/new-coral-data-for-bering-sea