2013 Assessment of the Pollock Stock in the Aleutian Islands

April 15, 2013

Walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) are distributed throughout the Aleutian Islands (AI) with concentrations in areas and depths dependent on diel and seasonal migration. The population of pollock in the AI incurred an apparent drop in abundance from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s (1986 bottom trawl survey estimate of 444,000 t to a 1994 bottom trawl survey estimate of 78,000 t) with a relatively slow but steady increase in surveyed abundance through 2010 (Fig 1A.1a). The 2012 survey abundance was a record low at 44,281 t. The precipitous decline between 1986 and 1991 may be in part due to undocumented fishing by foreign vessels claiming catch from the Central Bering Sea (CBS), as the documented fishing levels alone cannot account for the decline (Table 1A.1). A number of foreign fishing vessels were observed fishing in the AI during this time period (Egan 1988a; Egan 1988b) while claiming catch from the CBS. The most recent surveys show that the AI pollock population is predominantly concentrated in the eastern portion of the Aleutian Island chain, closer to the Eastern Bering Sea shelf. Surveys from the 1980’s and 1990’s estimated higher proportions of pollock biomass in the central and western Aleutians (Fig 1A.1b). This recent spatial imbalance in population abundance may reflect a spatial contraction of the stock in the Eastern Bering Sea after the collapse of the Central Bering Sea population in the early 1990’s, low AI pollock recruitments since the mid 1980’s, documented high exploitation rate of the AI pollock in the mid- to late 1990’s, and possibly a high undocumented
exploitation rate in the late 1980’s by foreign fishers.