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Types and Sources of Products
The wild fishery for Alaska Pollock, also known as Walleye Pollock, is the largest by volume in the United States and is also one of the largest in the world. Alaska Pollock is a different species than the Pollock found on the Atlantic coast, and it is the most common type of Pollock in U.S. markets. All Alaska Pollock is wild-caught in the northern Pacific Ocean. Pollock is primarily harvested by trawl vessels, which tow nets through the middle of the water column. Some vessels are known as catcher/processors because they are large enough to catch their own fish and then process and freeze them at sea. Other vessels deliver their catch to mother ships (at-sea processing vessels that do not catch their own fish) or to shore-side seafood processors.
Alaska Pollock Facts
- Alaska Pollock has consistently been one of the top five seafood species consumed in the U.S.
- Since 2001, U.S. commercial landings of Alaskan Pollock (primarily in Alaska) have been well over 2 billion pounds each year.
- Pollock are mid-water schooling fish that can live up to 15 years.
- All Pollock is wild-caught in the ocean. There is no commercial aquaculture for this species.
Alaska Pollock is a mild-flavored white fish with a delicate and flaky texture. Because of its adaptability, Pollock is consumed in a variety of forms that include fresh and frozen fillets, fish sticks and other breaded and battered fish products, and “surimi” products. Surimi is a stable frozen intermediate ingredient that is used to produce traditional Japanese “kamaboko” products that are formulated to imitate crab, shrimp and scallop meat. These products are commonly marketed in the U.S. as imitation crab, shrimp or lobster and are often the “seafood” in seafood salads, stuffed entrees and other products. Surimi is produced by mincing and washing Alaskan Pollock fillets and then adding other ingredients to stabilize the protein in the fish and enable it to be frozen for extended periods of time. Alaska Pollock fillets or mince is also frozen into blocks and used to produce fish sticks and portions that are sold in retail stores and used in a variety of products in fast food and other restaurants. Frozen and fresh fillets are also becoming more available in some markets.
Alaska Pollock is a high protein, low fat fish that provides between 400 and 500 milligrams of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounce cooked serving. The nutritional composition of processed seafood products made from Alaskan Pollock varies depending on the ingredients added to the product and the method of preparation. Breaded items have additional carbohydrates and calories and may have more saturated fat if they are fried or cooked in oil. Surimi products may have lower levels of protein and fat and higher levels of carbohydrates. All of these products contain omega-3 fatty acids although the levels may be lower. Specific nutrition information for various products is available on their nutrition labels.
Management and Sustainability
The Alaskan Pollock fishery is highly regulated and falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government through the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Northern Pacific Fishery Management Council. Annual catch limits and seasons are set for Pollock fisheries. Limits are also set for bycatch species that may be caught unintentionally when fishing for Pollock. Many Pollock fishermen have formed cooperatives to more efficiently utilize the fishery and limit bycatch of unintended fish species. The eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Pollock stock were certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2005. According to NOAA FishWatch, no overfishing is occurring on Pollock stocks.
National Marine Fisheries Service, 2010. Fisheries of the United States 2009