Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gargantuan Rockfish Meets Sad Demise

Trawling for Alaska pollack south of the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea at a depth of 2,100 feet, the Seattle-based catcher-processor Kodiak Enterprise pulled in a 60-pound female shortraker rockfish estimated to be 90 to 115 years old. What I found most amazing about this ancient fish is that she was still fertile: “the belly was large” and “the ovaries were full of developing embryos.”

The untold story that virtually all of the major news outlets fail to report is that this magnificent fish was bycatch, having been caught (along with 9 other rockfish) incidental to the harvesting of 75 tons of pollock, the targeted species, on a single days haul of the trawlers giant net. Bycatch is normally discarded back into the ocean; think about that the next time you dine on artificial crab or shrimp made from surimi, a "fish puree" that is typically derived from pollock, or order a fish (i.e., pollock) sandwich at your favorite fast-food diner.

Because of its extremely large size, this particular specimen was saved and donated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for further study.

Addendum: Mark Powell, Director of Fish Conservation at the Ocean Conservancy, provides interesting insights into the value of giant female rockfish at blogfish, including some links that are well worth reading.


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