Salmon bycatch grips pollock fishery
By SeafoodSource staff
20 April, 2009 -
In mid-April, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to limit the king salmon bycatch in the Alaska pollock fishery by 2011.
The cap has two limits: 60,000 fish - which is not a target number, but an emergency backstop for years when bycatch is out of control - and 47,000 fish. If any three out of seven years reach the "safety net" of 60,000 fish, 47,000 fish will become the hard line limit.
Alaska's Bering Sea pollock fleet caught a record 120,000-plus salmon in 2007. However, there was a sharp decline in bycatch numbers in 2008, to 18,000 fish, and at the end of this year's A Season, they ranged from 10,000 to 11,000 salmon.
Bycatch numbers began to rise in 2000 to 2005, when they went from about 5,000 to 10,000 to 30,000 or 40,000. In 2006, they jumped to 80,000.
Total pollock landings for the A Season, which ended in early April, reached 314,264 pounds.
The pollock quota fell from 1.5 million metric tons in 2007 to 1 million metric tons in 2008, causing a significant price increase in fillets. The decrease was offset by the increase in prices of pollock fillets, as well as roe and surimi, prices of which were particularly strong.
This year, however, the quota dropped again, from 1 million metric tons to an all-time low of 815,000 metric tons, and because of that prices haven't decreased. However, prices haven't increased either, according to Matthew Hill, director of KeyBanc Capital Markets in Seattle, who works with several Pacific Northwest seafood suppliers.
"The quality of the roe was lower than last year - the eggs were larger and there was a little more water content. So prices this year compared to last year were down," said Hill. "But if you compare it on the size of the egg and the overall quality, [prices] compare favorably to last year. That's a good sign for the pollock guys."
The B Season for pollock opens June 10.
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