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Atlantic Pollock

Pollachius virens

Illustration of an Atlantic Pollock

Also Known As

  • Saithe
  • Coalfish
  • Coley
  • Green cod
  • Boston bluefish

U.S. wild-caught Atlantic pollock is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population level.

Fishing Rate

At recommended level.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat that are affected by some kinds of trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round. Peak landings are from November through January.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Maine to Virginia.

  • Taste

    Sweet and delicate.

  • Texture

    Firm.

  • Color

    White.

  • Health Benefits

    Atlantic pollock is very low in saturated fat and is a very good source of protein, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage the fishery.
  • Pollock, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the  Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes:
    • Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.
    • Separate management measures for recreational vessels.
    • Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat.
    • Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish.
    • Annual catch limits, based on best available science.
    • An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • The 2018 commercial landings of Atlantic pollock totaled more than 6.7 million pounds and were valued at more than $5.3 million.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Pollock are commonly harvested using trawl nets, gillnets, bottom longlines, and rod and reel.
    • Gillnets, longlines, and rod and reel used to harvest pollock have little to no impact on habitat.
    • Areas closures and gear restrictions reduce habitat impacts from trawl nets.
    • Fishermen follow management measures to designed to reduce interactions with marine mammals, including gear modifications, seasonal closures, and use of marine mammal deterrents.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • Pollock is growing in popularity with anglers that have traditionally targeted other groundfish like cod and haddock. Anglers target pollock from boats and shore using both lures and bait. Successful anglers find that the fish puts up a spirited fight. Fishing occurs year-round.
    • Regulations are limited to a minimum fish size in federal waters.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2019 stock assessment, Atlantic pollock is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.

Location

  • Atlantic pollock are found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and are most common on the western Scotian Shelf and in the Gulf of Maine.

Habitat

  • Pollock eggs and larvae are found in the water column.
  • Juveniles are found inshore and move offshore as they grow older. When in inshore waters, juvenile pollock school in the open water at low tide, then scatter at high tide and hide in intertidal seaweed beds.
  • Adults live offshore near the ocean floor over a wide variety of ocean bottom habitats including sand, mud, rocks, and vegetation.
  • Atlantic pollock swim in schools and are believed to travel extensively between the Scotian Shelf and Georges Bank and, to a lesser extent, between the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of Maine.

Physical Description

  • Atlantic pollock are brownish-green on the back and slightly pale on the belly.
  • They have a small chin barbel, like the whiskers on a catfish.
  • They are a member of the cod family but can be distinguished by their greenish hue and darker flesh.

Biology

  • Atlantic pollock grow fast at first until they sexually mature between the ages of 3 and 6.
  • They grow to more than 3 ½ feet long and 35 pounds and can live a long time, up to 23 years.
  • Atlantic pollock spawn from November through February over hard, stony, or rocky ocean bottoms in areas throughout the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.
  • They spawn multiple times per season.
  • Pollock eggs rise into the water column after they are released and fertilized.
  • Smaller pollock in inshore waters feed on small crustaceans and small fish. Larger pollock mainly prey on fish.
  • A variety of fish eat juvenile pollock. Spiny dogfish, monkfish, and other pollock prey on adults.

Research

  • Scientists at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center conduct bottom trawl surveys every year during the fall and spring in inshore and offshore areas off the northeast coast to monitor the abundance of pollock and other species. They use these data, along with data from surveys conducted by the state fisheries management agencies and fishery statistics, to determine the status of the pollock stocks.
  • 2019 Northeast Groundfish Operational Assessments website

Last updated: 03/23/2020