Greenpeace Ads to Target Alaska Pollock Industry


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
December 1, 2008

Beginning today, environmental activist organization Greenpeace will air TV ads in Alaska and Seattle calling for an end to overfishing of Alaska's pollock fishery, the world's largest whitefish resource.

The ad features a fisherman dressed in yellow slickers standing by a roadside carrying a sign that reads, "Unemployed. They over-fished pollock."

Both broadcast and cable TV outlets are included in the ad buy, which comes about a week before the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meets in Anchorage, Alaska, to determine the quota for the 2009 pollock fishing seasons. Last year, the Alaska pollock quota was cut by 28 percent to 1 million metric tons. Government scientists last month recommended another quota reduction to about 815,000 tons.

Greenpeace contends that current pollock harvesting practices not only put the fishery at risk of collapse, but also endanger Steller sea lions and fur seals, marine mammals that depend on pollock. Alaska native communities and the long-term economic viability of Alaska's fishery are also in jeopardy, the group says.

"Major warning signs give us reason to be very concerned," says Phil Kline, senior oceans campaigner for Greenpeace and a commercial fisherman of 29 years. Kline says Greenpeace is urging a quota of roughly half of what the council recommended in November. "It would be very prudent to be precautionary at the moment. Now is the time to back off on the fishery. It's all about protecting not just pollock but the function of the ecosystem and the people who depend on it."

David Benton, executive director of the Marine Conservation Alliance in Juneau, told the Anchorage Daily News last month that the pollock population historically goes through high and low cycles.

"This was an expected downturn, and we've seen similar patterns in the past," he said.

The Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands pollock fisheries are certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council of London.

Alaska pollock ranked No. 4 on the National Fisheries Institute's Top 10 list of the most popular seafood species consumed in the United States in 2007 at 1.73 pounds per capita. Pollock is widely used in frozen fish sticks, McDonald's Filet-o-Fish and in surimi seafood.

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