Pollock Conservation Cooperative

20 YEARS OF PARTNERSHIP

By Katie Straub

Julie Nielsen prepares to deploy an underwater microphone for tracking halibut. Photo by Andrew Seitz.
Julie Nielsen prepares to deploy an underwater microphone for tracking halibut. Photo by Andrew Seitz.

At-sea catcher processor companies Glacier Fish Co., American Seafoods Co., Trident Seafoods and Starbound recently gave $338,000 to the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center at the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

The four fish processing companies are members of the Pollock Conservation Cooperative, and their consistent, quarterly giving has led to numerous scientific discoveries.

The Alaska pollock fishery is the largest fishery in the United States. In 1998, in response to the federal American Fisheries Act, the At-Sea Processors Association formed the PCC to self-regulate and better manage fishing operations. This cooperative changed the Bering Sea pollock fishery from an “Olympic-style” race for fish to a fishery with a coordinated, deliberate pace that helped decrease environmental impacts and restore economic stability to the industry.

In addition to improving fishing efficiency — with 50% more product per pound of fish — the cooperative also led to the funding of critical marine research. In 2000, the PCC formed the research center at UAF.

This year celebrates 20 years of that philanthropic partnership between UAF and the PCC. Over the years, the cooperative has given more than $16 million to support marine research and education at UAF, including support for the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center. The cooperative is the largest private contributor to marine research at the University of Alaska.

“The establishment of the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center has resulted in a greatly improved understanding of the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea fisheries,” said S. Bradley Moran, CFOS dean. “We are very appreciative of the investments in research and education made by the PCCRC.”

The PCCRC provides grants to faculty and graduate students for research on a wide variety of groundfish species, including pollock in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The center funds research on marine mammals, climate effects, marine resource economics and product development. It also supports marine education and technical training.

Michael Courtney holds a satellite-tagged Chinook salmon. Photo by Andrew Seitz.
Michael Courtney holds a satellite-tagged Chinook salmon. Photo by Andrew Seitz.

Additionally, PCC supports Alaska Sea Grant programs and established an endowed chair in marine policy. That endowed chair is known as the Ted Stevens Distinguished Professorship of Marine Policy at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, a position currently held by Keith Criddle.

“There have been 97 research and education projects funded by the PCCRC since 2000,” said Criddle. “These projects have addressed critical questions regarding the biology, ecology and management of commercially harvested species and their role in the ecosystem. PCCRC has provided funding for nine graduate research fellows and 39 graduate research assistantships. We are very grateful for their support.”

The Pollock Conservation Cooperative companies take pride in helping educate the future leaders in fisheries and marine science while supporting research that increases the knowledge about the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea.

Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-sea Processors Association, said one of the great benefits of the collaboration between UAF and the cooperative is that it allows fishermen to sit down with researchers and students to talk about real-world situations.

“Since we operate off the coast of Alaska it’s important to support Alaska institutions —specifically UAF CFOS. The health of the resource, the state of knowledge we have, directly impacts our ability to harvest into the future,” Madsen said.

Madsen said the Alaska Education Tax Credit Program has been instrumental in the development and longevity of the UAF/PCC philanthropic partnership. The program allows businesses to donate to educational institutions and programs in return for substantial tax credits. The credit provides mutual benefits for industry, the university and its students, and the state of Alaska.