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Walleye Pollock Theragra chalcogramma


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Walleye Pollock
credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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Family: Gadidae, Cods view all from this family

Description Alaska pollock or walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) is a North Pacific species of the cod family Gadidae. While related to the common Atlantic pollock species of the same family, the Alaska pollock is not a member of the same Pollachius genus.

The Norwegian pollock (Theragra finnmarchica), a rare fish of Norwegian waters, may actually be the same species as the Alaska pollock.

The Alaska pollock has been said to be "the largest remaining source of palatable fish in the world." More than 3 million tons of Alaska pollock are caught each year in the North Pacific from Alaska to northern Japan. Alaska pollock catches from U.S. fisheries have been quite consistent at about 1.5 million tons a year, almost all of it from the Bering Sea. Information on the current stock status for Alaska groundfish is updated annually, whereas the specific 2007 pollock assessment is also available. The Alaska pollock landings are the largest of any single fish species in the U.S. However, in each of the last three years, the pollock population has declined; in 2008, it fell 38 percent and scientists now believe that the 2008 pollock catch will be the lowest in 30 years. Although the fishery has been hailed as an example of good management, and the prestigious Marine Stewardship Council declared it "sustainable", Greenpeace has criticized its management for many years and placed pollock on its international "red list" of endangered fish. In response to the new data, Greenpeace called for 2009 catch levels to be reduced to half those of 2008 to avoid further long-term declines.

This decline has led some scientists to worry that Alaska pollock could be about to repeat the kind of collapse experienced by Atlantic cod, which could have negative consequences for the world food supply and the entire Bering Sea ecosystem. Halibut, salmon, endangered Steller sea lions, fur seals, and humpback whales all eat pollock and rely on healthy populations to sustain themselves.

It has been found that catches of Alaska pollock go up three years after stormy summers. The storms stir up nutrients, and this results in phytoplankton being plentiful for longer, which in turn allows more pollock hatchlings to survive.

Dimensions Up to 36" (90 cm).

Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Open ocean.

Range California, Northwest, Western Canada, Alaska.