2013 Assessment of the Walleye Pollock Stock in the Eastern Bering Sea
Walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma; hereafter referred to as “pollock”) are broadly distributed throughout the North Pacific with the largest concentrations found in the Eastern Bering Sea. Also marketed under the name Alaska pollock, this species continues to represent over 40% of the global whitefish production with the market disposition split fairly evenly between fillets, whole (headed and gutted), and surimi (Fissel et al. 2012). An important component of the commercial production is the sale of roe from pre-spawning pollock. Pollock are considered to be a relatively fast growing and short-lived species. They play an important role in the Bering Sea ecosystem.
In the U.S. portion of the Bering Sea three stocks of pollock are identified for management purposes. These are: Eastern Bering Sea which consists of pollock occurring on the Eastern Bering Sea shelf from Unimak Pass to the U.S.-Russia Convention line; the Aleutian Islands Region encompassing the Aleutian Islands shelf region from 170W to the U.S.-Russia Convention line; and the Central Bering Sea— Bogoslof Island pollock. These three management stocks undoubtedly have some degree of exchange. The Bogoslof stock forms a distinct spawning aggregation that has some connection with the deep water region of the Aleutian Basin (Hinckley 1987). In the Russian EEZ, pollock are considered to form two stocks, a western Bering Sea stock centered in the Gulf of Olyutorski, and a northern stock located along the Navarin shelf from 171E to the U.S.- Russia Convention line (Kotenev and Glubokov 2007). There is some indication (based on NMFS surveys) that the fish in the northern region may be a mixture of eastern and western Bering Sea pollock with the former predominant. Bailey et al. (1999) present a thorough review of population structure of pollock throughout the north Pacific region. Genetic differentiation using microsatellite methods suggest that populations from across the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea were similar. However, weak differences were significant on large geographical scales and conform to an isolation-by-distance pattern (O’Reilly et al. 2004; Canino et al. 2005; Grant et al. 2010). Bacheler et al. (2010) analyzed 19 years of egg and larval distribution data for the eastern Bering Sea. Their results suggested that pollock spawn in two pulses spanning 4-6 weeks: first in late February, then again in midlate April. Their data also suggest three unique areas of egg concentrations with the region north of Unimak Island and the Alaska Peninsula being the most concentrated. Such syntheses of egg and larval distribution data provide a useful baseline for comparing trends in the distribution of pre-spawning pollock. Recent studies on movement of pollock within the region given the available data are presented in Hulson et al. (2011). This work was extended to evaluate environmental effects on spatial stock structure and the potential impact on management advice (Hulson et al. 2013).