2018 Assessment of Walleye Pollock in the Bogoslof Island Region
Alaska pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) are broadly distributed throughout the North Pacific with largest concentrations found in the Eastern Bering Sea. The Bogoslof region is noted for having distinct spawning aggregations that appear to be independent from pollock spawning in nearby regions. The Bogoslof management district (INPFC area 518) was established in 1992 in response to fisheries and surveys conducted during the late 1980s, which consistently found a discrete aggregation of spawning pollock in this area during the winter. The degree to which this aggregation represents a unique, self-recruiting stock is unknown but the persistence of this aggregation suggests some spawning site fidelity that called for independent management. The Bogoslof region pollock has also been connected with the historical abundance of pollock found in the central Bering Sea (Donut Hole) due to concentrations of pollock that appeared to be moving toward this region prior to spawning (Smith 1981). For the purpose of management within the US zone, pollock from this region are managed separately.
Collectively, pollock found in the Donut Hole and in the Bogoslof region are by convention, considered to be part of the Aleutian Basin stock. Currently, based on an agreement from a Central Bering Sea convention meeting, it is assumed that 60% of the Aleutian Basin pollock population spawns in the Bogoslof region. The actual distribution of Aleutian Basin pollock is unknown and likely varies depending on environmental conditions and the age-structure of the stock. The Bogoslof component of the Aleutian Basin stock is one of three management stocks of pollock recognized in the BSAI region. The other stocks include pollock found in the large area of the Eastern Bering Sea shelf region and those in the Aleutian Islands near-shore region (i.e., less than 1000m depth; Barbeaux et al. 2004). The Aleutian Islands, Eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Basin stocks probably intermingle, but the exchange rate and magnitude are unknown. The degree to which the Bogoslof spawning component contributes to subsequent recruitment to the Aleutian Basin stock also is unknown. From an early life-history perspective, the opportunities for survival of eggs and larvae from the Bogoslof region seem smaller than for other areas (e.g., north of Unimak Island on the shelf). There is a high degree of synchronicity among strong year-classes from these three areas, which suggests either that the spawning source contributing to recruitment is shared or that conditions favorable for survival are shared. From a biological perspective, the degree to which these management units are reasonable definitions depends on the active exchange among these stocks. If they are biologically distinct and have different levels of productivity, then management should be adjusted accordingly. Bailey et al. (1999) present a thorough review of population structure of pollock throughout the north Pacific region. They note that adjacent stocks were not genetically distinct but that differentiation between samples collected on either side of the N. Pacific was evident.
Some characteristics distinguish Bogoslof region pollock from other areas. Growth rates appear different (based on mean-lengths at age) and pollock sampled in the Bogoslof Island survey tend to be much older. For example, the average percentage (by numbers of fish older than age 6) of age 15 and older pollock observed from the Bogoslof AT surveys (1988-2012) is 18%; in the EBS region (from model estimates), the average from this period is only 2%. The pollock found in winter surveys are generally older than age 4 and are considered distinct from eastern Bering Sea pollock. Further study on stock structure (relating age compositions in adjacent regions) should help understand this possibility. Although data on the age structure of Bogoslof pollock show that a majority of pollock originated from year classes that were also strong on the shelf, 1972, 1978, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2006. A more recent pattern appears to be that the year-classes differ slightly. For example, the 2008 year-class in the EBS, there was some indication that there are strong year classes appearing on the shelf that may not be occurring the Bogoslof region (there seems to be a strong 2009 year-class). This may be due to age-determination discrepancies or that spawning and subsequent survival rates are diverging. Indications suggest that the 2012 year-class is appearing in this survey (6 year-olds) and has been observed in the EBS shelf region.