Edward F. Melvin, Marine Fisheries Scientist
Pollock and salmon are among the most important fishery resources in Alaska. The pollock fishery in the Eastern Bering Sea is based in Seattle and is one of the largest fisheries in the world. It is also closely monitored for its incidental catch of salmon, which can close the fishery if bycatch limits are exceeded. For these reasons, the status of the pollock stock and the level of salmon bycatch are of keen interest to many who live in Seattle.
Each year Washington Sea Grant co-hosts a forum at which scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of NOAA fisheries preview the most recent assessment of the Eastern Bering Sea pollock population, which is the basis for setting the catch levels for this fishery.
The forum, presented in partnership with the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and the College of the Environment, is held prior to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council process that sets catch limits for the coming year. It provides fishermen, local marine businesses, environmental groups, students and faculty an opportunity to learn about the science underpinning the stock assessment and discuss trends in data.
In 2014 the scope of the meeting expanded to include industry presentations on new developments in gear modifications that exclude salmon from pollock trawls. These new trawl nets have the potential to forestall closures of the fishery and conserve the salmon resource for native Alaskan coastal communities.
In 2015, the program included a presentation on the newly announced Bering Sea Climate Change Study — a collaboration of NOAA and UW scientists to assess the possible biological and ecological consequences of climate change on Bering Sea fish and fisheries. The 3-year study will focus on five key species including pollock.
For 2016, the program presented a new, multispecies trophic interaction model that links three key Bering Sea species — walleye pollock, Pacific cod and arrowtooth flounder.