Wednesday, January 20, 2010
And they're off! Well, not really
One of the world's largest seafood harvests by volume, the Bering Sea pollock fishery, opened at noon today.
The total allowable catch for the year is 813,000 metric tons, just a shade below last year's limit.
Time was, when the opening gun sounded, boats would start dueling at sea immediately for fish, bad weather be damned. That was during the bruising days of Olympic-style fishing.
Since 1999, we've been using a more genteel system with the fleet broken up into a handful of fishing cooperatives. Each boat within a co-op receives its own set share before the season starts, and crews can net the fish whenever they please.
Of course, nature dictates to some degree when the fishing is best.
In the winter, during what's known as the A season, trawlers target the pollock at a time when they're schooled up and ready to spawn. Thus, the female fish are full of roe that accounts for a big part of the fishery's value, often said to approach $1 billion.
Other top pollock products include fillets, used for goods such as fish sticks and the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich, and a protein paste called surimi that's fashioned into imitation crab and a slew of Asian specialties.
Pollock isn't the only game in town.
The Bering Sea trawl fishery for Pacific cod also opened at noon today. This is another huge and lucrative fishery, with a quota of 168,780 metric tons for the year.