Alaskan & Russian Pollock

This large-eyed fish is the most important groundfish species in world fisheries. But will its popularity also be its downfall as overfishing threatens to weaken population numbers?
 rel=
Alaska pollock or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma)
© US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Key Facts

  • common name

    Alaska pollock; Walleye pollock

  • scientific name

    Theragra chalcogramma

  • weight

    600 to 800g

  • length

    30 to 91cm

Subscribe to WWF

World's biggest source of palatable fish

Alaska and Russian pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) is a small relative of the cod.

This large-eyed fish is the most important groundfish species in world fisheries (groundfish are fish that live on, in, or near the bottom of the body of water they inhabit).

It also supports the second largest fishery in the world, after the Peruvian anchovy.
Physical description
Alaska pollock has distinct blotches over its entire body with an olive-green belly. Its head has lateral pores, big eyes and a protruding lower jaw. There are 2 anal fins, 3 fins on its back and pelvic fins.

Life cycle
Average 17 years

Breeding
Alaskan pollock spawn in large groups. The females lay hundreds of thousands of eggs over several days. The eggs hatch in 9 to 28 days with the number of offspring ranging from 100,000 to 1,000,000.

Diet
Zooplankton (food for Alaskan pollock larvae), euphausiid krill, tunicates, copepods, shrimp, small pollock.
 
Habitat
Biogeographic realm
Palearctic, Nearctic

Range States
United States of America, Japan and Mexico

Geographical Location
Northern America, West and South-Western Asia

Ecological Region
Pelagic zone, Benthic zone

Managing the fisheries

Pollock is marketed under several trade names including
  • walleye pollock,
  • whiting,
  • Pacific tomcod,
  • Pacific pollock, and
  • Alaska pollock.
Pollock is usually sold to consumers as fillets or breaded and battered portions, and it is frequently used as the main fish ingredient to make surimi products such as imitation crab.

Products are consumed all over the world, most notably in the Asian Pacific region, North America and Europe. Pollock fisheries make up an important proportion of total Russian and US seafood production in the Pacific region.

US Pollock
The main fishing pollock areas for the US pollock fishery are in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, with the Bering Sea accounting for more than 90% of the volume of the US pollock fishery.

Fished exclusively by US vessels, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the fishery in 2007 was worth about $US 1.5 billion.

The US, through its North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC), is responsible for managing the fishery.

Russian Pollock
The main fishing areas for Russian pollock fisheries are in the western parts of the Bering Sea and in the Sea of Okhotsk.

Russian fisheries commonly refer to pollock under the trade name “Alaska Pollock,” but the Russian fisheries only operate in Russian waters and should not be confused with the US Pollock fishery.

Fished mainly by Russian vessels, the fishery is managed by the Russian Federation.
Overfishing / ©: WWF
Overfishing of pollock could lead to collapse of important fisheries. Proper, sustainable management is vital.
© WWF
Alaskan pollock is a priority species. WWF treats priority species as one of the most ecologically, economically and/or culturally important species on our planet. And so we are working to ensure such species can live and thrive in their natural habitats.

What are the main threats?

The main threat to this fish comes from overfishing by humans. A substantial and steady decrease in its population has been reported.

Alaska pollock is not evaluated by IUCN.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has certified some fisheries as being sustainable.

For more than 20 years, the US pollock fishery has been well-managed, and the certification to the MSC standard supports that conclusion.

The Russian pollock fishery entered the MSC certification process in 2008.

For updates on the status of MSC certification, visit; http://www.msc.org

What is WWF doing?

WWF supports the promotion of Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries.

Sustainable fishing ensures that the oceans will not be overfished and preserves marine environments and habitats.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has certified some fisheries as being sustainable.

For more than 20 years, the US pollock fishery has been well-managed, and certification to the MSC standard supports that conclusion.

The Russian pollock fishery entered the MSC certification process in 2008.

The MSC provides updates on the status of fisheries certification.


 / ©: MSC
MSC logo
© MSC

How you can help

Use your power as a consumer - ask for MSC certified pollock. Consumer demand for sustainable seafood can act as an extremely powerful incentive for better fisheries management.

Make a donation

Did you know?

    • Alaska pollock have a limited thermal tolerance range. As the fish grows old, its thermal range decreases.
    • The highest recorded number of eggs laid by an Alaska Pollock female is 1 million.
    • The record for the longest living Alaska Pollock is 31 years.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.