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Central Bering Sea Pollock Workshop on Allowable Harvest Level and Stock Identification

At the Ninth Annual Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Pollock Resources in the Central Bering Sea held last September in Kushiro, Japan, the Parties agreed on a Scientific and Technical (S&T) Committee Work Plan for 2005. The plan requires that two working groups be formed: 1) a genetics working group to address research on the composition of pollock stocks in the Bering Sea, and 2) a working group to identify scientific factors that should be considered in deriving an AHL (Acceptable Harvest Level) after the Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) is determined by the S&T Committee. On 6-9 June 2005 the United States hosted both an AHL Workshop and Genetics Workshop at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.

At the AHL Workshop delegates and scientists from Japan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States discussed a broad range of topics concerning the health and potential exploitation of the Central Bering Sea pollock stock. The workshop convened with a summary discussion on the status and trend of what is known about Aleutian Basin pollock. During the workshop scientists from the United States, Russia, and Japan presented their findings on the health, status, and trends of Aleutian Basin pollock stock, present biomass level of the stock, and the biological relationships between the Aleutian Basin pollock stock and those in the adjacent waters. The U.S. delegation presented on the use of spawner per recruit (SPR) rates as done for U.S. domestic fisheries along with the control rules for setting ABC. A specific application to the Bogoslof region was presented and three alternatives were given as examples. Further discussions were conducted on a desirable rebuilding schedule, the effects of different levels of AHL on the rebuilding schedule, and the effects of fishing outside the central Bering Sea Convention Area on the status, biomass, and trend of the Aleutian Basin stock. The workshop concluded with two specific recommendations to the S&T Committee on determination of AHL:

1.  All parties agreed that the present procedure for calculating ABC used in the United States is appropriate and should be applied to the Aleutian Basin pollock stock given its current condition.

2.  Some parties proposed that in order to determine the transformation from ABC to AHL new information about the distribution of pollock in the Aleutian Basin is needed. The workshop recommended that the committee consider proposals on possible approaches for collecting such information, including the proposal of the Russian party for an international survey effort.

The Genetics Workshop was held in tandem with the AHL workshop. Participants included scientists and delegates from Japan, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States. The workshop began with a review of current information and research on pollock genetics with presentations by the United States, Japanese, and Russian delegations. Discussions between the participants ensued on research planning, specimen collection, and the possibility of specimen exchanges. The workshop concluded with four recommendations to the S&T Committee:

  1. Historical specimen availability. The workshop recommended that parties to the Convention develop an inventory of historical samples. It is envisioned that these data will be presented and updated eventually to be available on a website.
  2. Current and planned research. The workshop recommended that parties present a report on the ongoing and planned activities on genetics research related to pollock. This will help guide areas where research is lacking and inform on activities around the region.
  3. Development of baseline research. The workshop encouraged member countries to pursue research on improving genetic markers for pollock. The use of alternative markers will help improve the understanding of how stocks are related.
  4. Sample exchange. The workshop recommended that sample-exchange among member parties be facilitated.

More thorough workshop reports can be found on the Central Bering Sea Pollock Convention website at

By Steve Barbeaux


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