Pollock (Alaskan)

Pollock is the fourth most popular seafood item in America. Though it fills our freezers and fast food chains, it is not the most familiar fish to most Americans. The strongly flavored whitefish comes disguised under many different monikers: fish sticks, fish and chips, Filet-O-Fish and even surimi, the imitation crab meat you find in a California sushi roll.

Its anonymity is all the more remarkable considering that the Alaska pollock fishery is the largest fishery by volume in the United States, with the last decade’s annual catches averaging around 2.9 billion pounds. Yet pollock possess several characteristics that enable their populations to withstand this volume of catch and sustain the fishery. The fish reach reproductive maturity at a very early age in their relatively long lifespan and produce plentiful offspring (the female pollock can produce more than 2 million eggs over several weeks!) That means that new generations continuously replenish population numbers even when lifespans are cut short by human demand.

The species’ incredible resilience has led humans to see pollock as an almost endlessly renewable resource, making it the fish of choice for mass-produced processed food. Although pollock fisheries continue to be relatively well-managed, concern has arisen in recent years over trawling impacts, bycatch, and population control. In fact, pollock populations are now at their lowest levels in over 20 years. In recognition of depleting populations and to encourage stronger fishery management, in 2005 the Marine Stewardship Council designated the Alaska pollock fishery a certified sustainable fishery.

The pollock's light flaky flesh can be substituted for overfished cod or haddock in most recipes. Pollock is a very versatile fish that can be poached, baked, broiled, grilled or put into fish chowders. Try this delicious colorful recipe: Baked Pollock with Peppers and Tomatoes.

The key information you should know about pollock:

Toxcitiy: Least Mercury (Among four categories: least mercury, moderate mercury, high mercury, and highest mercury. See NRDC Smarter Living’s Consumer Guide to Mercury in Fish)

Omega-3: 500 mg for Alaska Pollock (Measured in milligrams per 3-ounce serving. The American Medical Association recommends approximately 250 mg of omega-3 every day. Thanks to the Blue Ocean Institute’s Seafood Decision Guide.)

Ocean-friendly: Yellow List ‘Good Alternatives’ for Alaska pollock (According to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch)

Level in the food chain: Carnivore