Pollock group gives $1 million to study Steller woes

welchlanieLR.jpg Alaska’s pollock industry is donating more than $1 million for research on sea lion declines and ecosystem changes in the Bering Sea. The Pollock Conservation Cooperative, a group of companies that operate catcher-processor vessels in the Bering Sea, gave the money to the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Fifty-nine Alaska communities are partial owners of these companies. Research began last spring when the PCC provided $385,000 to UAF. An additional $637,000 was awarded in January to support research and a research endowment, as well as two fisheries faculty positions.

"Alaska’s Bering Sea pollock fishery is the nation’s largest fishery," said Trevor McCabe of the At-Sea Processors Association, the PCC members’ trade group. "We want to protect this amazing resource, and to do so, we must learn everything we can about the ecosystem that sustains it. This is the first of a multiyear research effort by our industry sector, and it is just the beginning."

"We welcome the partnership with the state’s pollock industry to understand what’s causing changes in the Bering Sea," University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton said in a press release. "Their generous gift to the university will help our scientists answer important questions that will improve fisheries management and help unravel the causes of marine mammal declines."

Eat fish, see better

Women who breast-feed their babies, or who eat oily fish while pregnant, have children with better than normal visual development. That’s the conclusion of researchers at Bristol University in England, who have examined eyesight development of more than 400 children at the age of 31/2 years.

"Our results suggest that children whose mothers ate oily fish in pregnancy or who were breastfed reach the adult depth of perception sooner," said researcher Cathy Williams. "As far as we know this is the first time that diet in pregnancy has been shown to be associated with a child’s visual development."

Oily fish is the richest source of DHA, a fatty acid that is an important structural component of neuronal membranes in the brain. Williams said DHA is also present in breast milk but not in standard formula milk.

Department seeks hike

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is requesting an increase of nearly $122,000 in its 2002 budget for the Board of Fisheries and local advisory committee support.

The board would get $76,700 of the request, to make up for a $71,000 reduction imposed by the Senate last year. The remaining $45,000 would primarily be used to help local advisory committee members in remote areas to send representatives to fish board meetings.

The House Finance Subcommittee will send a formal recommendation to the full committee later this month.

Copper River scoop?

Salmon from the Columbia River could scoop Copper River as the year’s first fresh salmon. Seafood Trends reports that the run of Columbia River king salmon could be about 364,000 fish this spring, well above last year’s 179,000 kings.

That makes it the largest salmon run since the Bonneville Dam was built in 1938. Last year the Columbia yielded a small commercial catch of about 400 king salmon. There is also the possibility of a small experimental fishery in April to test a new type of gillnet.

Kodiak-based free-lance writer Laine Welch can be reached by e-mail at ([email protected]).

02/24/2001 - 8:00pm