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Atlantic Pollock, Saithe

PC019ufsiOrigin – Iceland

  • Presentation – Whole, HG, Fillets

Fisheries

The Atlantic pollock resource is quite large, with landings exceeding 450,000 metric tons in good years. Norway is by far the largest producer, typically accounting for anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of the catch.

On this side of the Atlantic, U.S. and Canadian catches of Atlantic pollock have declined substantially from their peak levels of the mid-1980s, when more than 70,000 metric tons a year were landed. Combined landings the past few years have averaged about 10,000 metric tons, about equally divided between the United States and Canada. Maine and Massachusetts produce more than 85 percent of the U.S. landings. In Canada, almost 90 percent of the Atlantic pollock catch is landed by Nova Scotia boats, primarily small draggers and gillnetters.

The long-term outlook for Atlantic pollock on this side of the North Atlantic is somewhat optimistic, although stocks remain at historically low levels. In New England, there are encouraging signs that seasonal closures and restrictions on fishing effort are beginning to pay off.

After years of relatively low landings and strict conservation measures, the U.S. resource should be able to support annual catches of 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons. Look for landings this year to remain in the 4,000 to 6,000-metric-ton range.

The Canadian pollock resource remains in rough shape. The quota for 2001 is at 9,800 metric tons, the lowest level in more than 20 years. As recently as 1998, the quota was 20,000 metric tons.

It is also unlikely that Canadian boats will catch their full pollock quota again this year. The large trawlers have not been able to catch enough pollock to make fishing this species worthwhile. As a result, Canadian landings should be about 5,000 metric tons again this year.

Iceland has also seen its saithe catches drop sharply. Since 1995, catches have declined from about 70,000 metric tons to about 30,000 metric tons, which has been the average catch of the past few years. The quota for the 2001-02 fishing year remains at 30,000 metric tons. Given the current condition of the resource, it is unlikely that the Icelandic quota will be increased soon.

Norwegian catches of Atlantic pollock, which have averaged approximately 200,000 metric tons in recent years, should come in slightly below that level in 2001, as catches from the summer seine fishery appeared to be running below average.

Supplies of imported frozen Atlantic pollock were down substantially for the first half of 2001, falling from 1,100 metric tons to about 620 metric tons. Imports from Iceland fell from 800 metric tons to 520 metric tons, while imports from Norway fell from 290 metric tons to just 93 metric tons.

However, imports of fresh Atlan-tic pollock from Canada increased from 575 metric tons to 710 metric tons for the first half of 2001.

Use as food

Sure, Atlantic pollock makes good fish and chips, but it works well out of the fryer, too. Because it has about a third more fat than cod, it’s also a bit more forgiving and flavorful. If color is an issue, try using deep-skinned pollock, as it will cook up more white.

A versatile fish, Atlantic pollock can be used in any recipe that calls for cod or haddock or a similar whitefish. If you want to take it upscale, try pairing it with a more expensive shellfish, like shrimp.

If you’re not comfortable menuing pollock, or if you don’t want to explain to your customers what saithe is, use a generic description such as Thai Seafood Salad or Braised Whitefish Florentine.

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