2018 Assessment of the Pacific Ocean Perch Stock in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands
Pacific ocean perch (POP, Sebastes alutus) inhabit the outer continental shelf and upper slope regions of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. Pacific ocean perch were occasionally managed within a species complex with four other associated rockfish species (northern rockfish, S. polyspinis; rougheye rockfish, S. aleutianus; shortraker rockfish, S. borealis; and sharpchin rockfish, S. zacentrus) in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) and Aleutian Islands (AI) subareas from 1979 to 1990. Known as the POP complex, these five species were managed as a single entity with a single TAC (total allowable catch) for each of these two areas. In 1991, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council separated POP from the other red rockfish in order to provide protection from possible overfishing. Of the five species in the former POP complex, S. alutus has historically been the most abundant rockfish in this region and has contributed most to the commercial rockfish catch.
A variety of types of research can be used to infer stock structure of POP, including age and length compositions, growth patterns and other life-history information, and genetic studies. Spatial differences in age or length compositions can be used to infer differences in recruitment patterns that may correspond to population structure. In Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia, Gunderson (1972) found substantial differences in the mean lengths of POP in fishery hauls taken at similar depths which were related to differences in growth rates and concluded that POP likely form aggregations with distinct biological characteristics. In a subsequent study, Gunderson (1977) found differences in size and age composition between Moresby Gully and two other gullies in Queen Charlotte Sound. Westrheim (1970, 1973) recognized “British Columbia” and “Gulf of Alaska” POP stocks off the western coast of Canada based upon spatial differences in length frequencies, age frequencies, and growth patterns observed from a trawl survey. In a study that has influenced management off Alaska, Chikuni (1975) recognized distinct POP stocks in four areas – eastern Pacific (British Columbia), Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, and Bering Sea. However, Chikuni (1975) states that the eastern Bering Sea (EBS) stock likely receives larvae from both the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) and Aleutian Islands (AI) stock, and the AI stock likely receives larvae from the GOA stock.
An alternative approach to evaluating stock structure involves examination of rockfish life-history stages directly. Stock differentiation occurs from separation at key life-history stages. Because many rockfish species are not thought to exhibit large-scale movements as adults, movement to new areas and boundaries of discrete stocks may depend largely upon the pelagic larval and juvenile life-history stages. Simulation modeling of ocean currents in the Alaska region suggest that larval dispersal may occur over very broad areas, and may be dependent on month of parturition (Stockhausen and Hermann 2007).