Q: What is the At-sea Processors Association (APA)?
A: APA is a trade association representing six companies that own and operate 16 commercial fishing vessels that catch, process, package and freeze Alaska pollock and other groundfish in U.S. waters off Alaska as well as Pacific whiting off the west coast.
Q: What is Alaska pollock?
A: Alaska pollock is the most abundant fish species in the Bering Sea and is an important specie in the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem as well. Pollock is a whitefish similar to cod. Landings from the Alaska pollock fishery have averaged 2.5 billion pounds annually over the past 35 years.
Q: When is the Alaska pollock fishing season and where is the fishery conducted?
A: In the larger Bering Sea fishery, the annual quota is harvested in two fishing seasons--the first occurs from January to April and the second from June through October. The Bering Sea pollock fishery is the world’s largest food fishery. There is also a smaller pollock fishery in the Gulf of Alaska. U.S. fisheries jurisdiction extends outward 200 miles from the coast. The Alaska pollock fishery occurs exclusively within U.S. jurisdiction.
Q: How is Alaska pollock harvested?
A: The catch is harvested with mid-water trawl nets. Mid-water trawling minimizes the effects of fishing on the ocean environment. APA member vessels utilize at-sea processing technology that allows them to process, freeze and store their catch onboard within hours of harvest, creating products of the highest quality. Alaska pollock is also harvested by catcher-only trawl vessels that deliver their catch to onshore processors.
Q: What products are made with Alaska pollock?
A: Alaska pollock fillets are used in fish sandwiches, fish sticks and fish & chips. For example, almost all of the McDonald’s fish sandwiches served in North America are made from Alaska pollock. Pollock roe, surimi, (a minced pollock product used to make imitation crab products), is also produced.
Q: Who manages the Alaska pollock fishery?
A: Congress created regional fishery management councils to develop fishery management regulations for fisheries conducted within the U.S. 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These rules must comply with conservation and management standards set forth in law, and must be approved by the Secretary of Commerce. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council manages the Alaska pollock fishery.. The North Pacific Council has an excellent track record for managing fishery resources, and is considered a model by other fishing nations around the world. All of the groundfish species under the North Pacific Council’s authority are managed at healthy and sustainable levels.
Q: What are the keys to maintaining a sustainable Alaska pollock fishery?
A: Scientists determine a safe harvest level to guard against over fishing. The North Pacific Council recommends annual catch limits at or below the sustainable harvest levels determined by scientific advisers. Fish harvests are monitored by onboard federal observers, and the fishery closes when catch limits are reached. As a result, Alaska pollock harvests have been stable for over 35 years.
Q: What does it mean that the Alaska pollock fishery has been certified as a well-managed, sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)?
A: The MSC is an international organization co-founded in 1995 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The MSC consulted with dozens of scientists to develop strict standards for responsible fisheries management. Fisheries can apply to be assessed to see if they qualify for the MSC “seal of approval." After a rigorous, comprehensive review, a team of independent scientists certified in 2005 that the Alaska pollock fishery meets the MSC standard for a well-managed, sustainable fishery. The fishery is audited annually to ensure continued compliance with the MSC standard and a full reevaluation occurs every five years. Alaska pollock products are eligible to carry the MSC eco-label. For more information on the MSC, see www.msc.org.
Q: How can I learn more about Alaska pollock marketing and sales?
A: Contact any APA member company for information about buying Alaska pollock products. Also, the Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) is working with seafood buyers around the world to educate them about high-quality, affordable Alaska pollock products and the sustainability of the fishery. Learn more about GAPP at www.alaskapollock.org. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) also has information about the nutritional aspects of Alaska pollock and offers recipe ideas. Learn more about ASMI at www.alaskaseafood.org.
Q: What about the Pacific whiting fishery?
A: Most APA member companies also participate in the Pacific whiting fishery. The fishery, which opens in May, occurs off the coast of Washington and Oregon. Pacific whiting is a fish similar to Alaska pollock and is also harvested using mid-water trawl gear. The fishery resource is sustainably managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council. To learn more about Pacific whiting, visit the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative’s website at www.pacificwhiting.org.
Q: What about jobs on at-sea processing vessels?
A: Most positions are for entry level processing workers. Learn more about working aboard a catcher/processor on this website. Please contact individual APA member companies about employment opportunities.