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The Alaskan pollock industry is the largest commercial fishery in the United States, accounting for 2 billion pounds of catch annually, or a third of all seafood caught (by weight). Careful monitoring of pollock stocks and migration patterns on the part of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) and other conservation and management bodies have contributed to the sustainability and robust trade economy of the fishery. The Alaskan pollock fishery is endorsed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a third-party marine conservation group that certifies commercial fishing operations for environmentally sound and sustainable practices and management.

Alaskan Pollock, also known as Walleye Pollock, is a near-ubiquitous staple in processed seafoods on the consumer end: fish sticks, imitation crabmeat, and fish patties for popular fast-food chains all depend upon pollock for their production.

Climate change trends and the warming of waters in the Bering Strait, along with the retreat of winter ice farther north, have begun to have an impact on this Alaskan fishery, however. Warmer sea currents have apparently shifted some of the migration patterns of the pollock population, causing them to move farther north and west, away from expected fishing grounds. This migration has led the pollock right out of American waters and across the border into Russian territory, provoking a potential conflict with Russian fishing industries.

Other results of climatic shift have been noted, as well. Salmon have been found colonizing rivers farther north, and whales have been spotted well into the Arctic, where they apparently wander, starving, in search of food after krill die-offs in traditional feeding territories. This ecological shift has also contributed to massive seabird deaths in some areas, and unexpected blooms of phytoplankton in the warming waters.

Sources:

1. http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-na-pollock19-2008oct19,0,6659556.story

2. http://www.atsea.org/industry.php

3. http://www.alaska-in-pictures.com

Alaskan Pollock Fishery: Warmer Waters, Migrating Stocks

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