Chances are you may have eaten Alaska pollock without even knowing it. That fish sandwich at your favorite restaurant or the imitation crab meat you put on your salad is likely made from Alaska pollock. Alaska pollock is often ranked as one of the top five seafood species consumed in the United States.
Alaska pollock has been the gold standard for sustainability for years. Since 2001, U.S. commercial landings of Alaska pollock have been well over 2.6 billion pounds each year on a sustainable basis. Pollock fishing has minimal impact on habitat. The fishery is a trawl fishery, meaning that large nets are pulled through the ocean above the ocean floor in an effort to avoid damaging the seabed. Pollock swim in giant schools well above the ocean floor. The pollock fishery is one of the cleanest fisheries in the world. Nearly 99 percent of the nets are filled with pollock, making for minimal by-catch.
I was lucky to be aboard a pollock trawler owned by Trident, one of Hy-Vee’s partners in sustainable Alaskan seafood. The ship was the Island Enterprise. We visited with the captain and he showed us the sophisticated sonar and computer systems on board. All this equipment helps the trawler crew hone in on the pollock schools and helps them guide their nets to avoid bycatch. It also allows them to fish faster and more efficiently. The ship fished around the clock and only stopped to unload; we were lucky enough to catch it while it was in port for a few hours. This ship catches the fish and processes it onboard; the fish is frozen within hours of the catch. When they are full they go to port, unload and go back out.
These efficiencies make it seem that the pollock don’t really have a chance, and the reality is they don’t. If not for a strong commitment to sustainability, the pollock stocks could easily be wiped out by these large ships. But thanks to great management by the state of Alaska, these massive boats can pull in large amounts of fish year after year. Pollock is the most important fish that you probably didn’t know about! Maybe you’ve eaten it and never thought twice about it.
You can cook a raw piece of pollock like you would cod or haddock. You will be surprised at what great natural flavor it has. It’s delicious in fish tacos. And when you’re enjoying it, know you are eating a fish that is sustainably harvested in a way that preserves the species and the ocean it’s caught in.