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What is an Alaska Pollock?

The Alaska Pollock is a key species in marine ecosystems, renowned for its mild flavor and flaky texture. This fish is a sustainable seafood choice, often found in fish sticks and surimi. It thrives in the cold waters of the North Pacific, playing a vital role in both ecological balance and global cuisine. Wondering how it impacts your favorite dishes? Let's explore further.
L.K. Blackburn
L.K. Blackburn

The Alaska pollock, known as the walleye pollock in Canada, is a fish found in the Northern Pacific Ocean. It is a speckled light green or brown fish, and its coloration allows it to blend in with the seabed to evade predators. Pollocks are part of the cod family, and are carnivores that eat mostly shrimp, herring, salmon, capelin, and sand lance. A substantial portion of all frozen fish fillets, fish sticks, and imitation shellfish is made from Alaska pollock.

Weighing in at an average 1.8 pounds (0.8 kg), the fish reaches 31.5 inches (80 cm) in length. Despite being a substantial portion of the seafood supply, Alaskan pollocks are historically not over-fished due to a rapid maturity and growth rate. Pollocks reach maturity around 4 years of age, and can live up to 15 years.

Sea birds often eat Alaska pollock.
Sea birds often eat Alaska pollock.

Like other Pacific fish, the pollock is harvested at sea and in ocean-based fisheries. It is commonly caught using trawl fishing and dragnets. Over-fishing is prevented by harvesting management agreements and combined cooperation from fisheries. Alaska pollock fisheries make up the largest number of total overall fisheries.

Pollock meat was first used for animal feed, but is now used for a large number of frozen fish products and mass products, such as fish sandwiches. Alaska pollock meat is protein rich with few carbohydrates. The meat from the fish is white in appearance and sweet in taste.

Alaska pollock is heavily fished, but protected from overfishing.
Alaska pollock is heavily fished, but protected from overfishing.

Most of the Alaska pollock population is found in the Bering Sea, although they do live all over the North Pacific. Their range reaches from Alaska to the Russian coastline, and down into the Sea of Japan. The fish live in different areas for feeding and for spawning.

They spawn in large schools, beginning in the month of January and lasting until March. Depending on region, the breeding season may last until as late as August. One female fish can lay 2 million eggs in one spawning season, another factor contributing to the resilience of their species.

Predators for the Alaska pollock include sea lions and sea birds. Many species depend on the pollock as a substantial part of their food source. Juvenile pollocks eat copepods until they grow large enough to consume other fish. The pollock lives along the ocean bottom, occasionally residing and hunting in the mid-water ranges. Younger fish stick closer to middle sea while older fish hang closer to the bottom of the seabed.

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    • Sea birds often eat Alaska pollock.
      By: Stefan Krasowski
      Sea birds often eat Alaska pollock.
    • Alaska pollock is heavily fished, but protected from overfishing.
      By: Fernbach Antal
      Alaska pollock is heavily fished, but protected from overfishing.