| ANCHORAGE, Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska Dec 15 Catches of Alaskan
pollock, the lowly whitefish that make up the bulk of the
nation's fish sticks, fast-food fish sandwiches and imitation
crab meat, will be drastically cut next year because of
reduction in the stocks swimming in the Bering Sea, according
to action taken by federal fishery managers.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council this weekend
approved an 815,000 metric ton cap on the commercial harvest in
2009, an 18.5 percent cut from this year's harvest limit of 1
million metric tons and about 40 percent less than the total
harvest authorized in 2007.
Years of declining stocks in the Bering Sea prompted
scientists to advise the steep cut, which the council approved
The Alaskan pollock catch is the world's largest
single-species commercial seafood harvest, supporting an
industry worth about $1 billion a year and providing feedstock
to the likes of McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) and Yum Brands Inc's
(YUM.N) Long John Silver's.
The massive catch in the Bering Sea, alone with a smaller
catch in the Gulf of Alaska, typically accounts for nearly 40
percent of all seafood landed by commercial fishermen in U.S.
"I think it was a very easy decision," said Sam Cotten, one
of the council members. "Our council and the people involved in
it have pretty strong confidence in the scientists that we rely
Pollock stocks have declined 20 percent per year since
2003, dipping to their lowest level since the late 1970s,
according to an assessment from the U.S. National Marine
Some environmentalists argued for a much smaller harvest
quota, saying the Bering Sea is undergoing drastic changes that
might cause fisheries to crash.
"So much pollock has been mined from the ocean that the
entire ecosystem has been restructured. Even with that
knowledge, along with all the other indicators of species
declines, the Management Council is establishing a catch limit
for pollock nearly double the amount that is sustainable,"
George Pletnikoff, an Aleut from Alaska's Pribilof Islands and
a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, said in a statement.
Greenpeace has been running television advertisements in
Alaska warning of potential overfishing of the fish.
Oceana, another environmental group, was seeking a quota of
about 500,000 metric tons, saying that despite a large number
of fish born in 2006, there is a lot of vulnerability.
Scientists advising the council, however, characterized the
815,000-metric-ton limit -- the smallest in decades -- as
cautious and responsible. The Bering Sea stock is far above a
level that would be considered overfished, they said.
(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Alaska; editing by Jim