WASHINGTON--A new survey conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service reveals that populations of Alaska pollock, the world’s largest food fishery, have dropped 50 percent since last year. Pollock is America’s most ubiquitous seafood product, found in McDonald’s fish sandwiches, frozen fish sticks, fish and chips, and imitation crabmeat.
The assessment revealed that Bering Sea pollock stocks have
declined to their lowest level on record-a startling development
for a fishery NMFS' chief scientist recently called "one of the
most successfully managed species in the world" and that has earned
a Marine Stewardship Council certification.
In December, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council will
set the new pollock catch limits for 2009. Scientists and
conservationists have warned that unless the Council reduces
fishing pressure on pollock, a vital forage species for fur seals,
whales, and endangered Steller sea lions, the entire Bering Sea
ecosystem could be in jeopardy of collapse. This would prove
devastating for the state's commercial fishermen and traditional
coastal communities that depend on a healthy ocean for their
"Economic pressures to keep on fishing at such high levels have
overwhelmed common sense," said Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Director of the
Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography. "With the huge uncertainties inherent
in fisheries models, a far more precautionary, ecosystem-based
approach is required. Otherwise, fisheries managers are gambling
with the health of our oceans and coastal communities."
Over the past several years, the pollock fishery has experienced
poor juvenile survival rates and dwindling populations, forcing the
council to reduce harvests in the past two fishing seasons. But
experts say these actions have been inadequate, failing to prevent
further declines. In order to restore the fishery's health, the
allowable catch must be cut in half, fishing on spawning
populations suspended, and marine reserves established to protect
"We are on the cusp of one of the largest fishery collapses in
history," said John Hocevar, Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Director.
"It may still be possible to prevent disaster, but the North
Pacific Fishery Management Council must take swift and decisive
action when they meet in December."
Other contacts: Contact: John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director, (512) 454-6140; Jeremy Jackson, Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, (858) 518-7613; Mike Crocker, Greenpeace USA Media Officer, 202-215-8989
Notes: For background on the pollock fishery, see our report at: www.greenpeace.org/usa/rethinking