Journal Article

Walleye pollock respond to trawling vessels

Alex De Robertis and Christopher D. Wilson

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 63, issue 3, pages 514-522
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Walleye pollock respond to trawling vessels

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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The potential for fish to avoid survey vessels is a major source of uncertainty in stock-assessment surveys. Although walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) are the subject of a substantial commercial fishery in the North Pacific, their behavioural responses to approaching survey vessels remain poorly understood. As a first step in an effort to determine if walleye pollock avoid survey vessels engaged in trawling operations, we made pairwise comparisons of acoustic backscatter recorded by survey vessels while free-running and while trawling. Results are presented of acoustic backscatter recorded from NOAA's RV “Miller Freeman”, which used a midwater trawl during the 1996–2002 eastern Bering Sea surveys, and a chartered commercial fishing vessel, which used a bottom trawl during a survey in 2003 in the Gulf of Alaska. In both cases, average backscatter from a vessel-mounted echosounder was significantly higher when free-running than when trawling. These decreases in backscatter are consistent with increased vessel avoidance while trawling. There were no differences in the vertical distribution of backscatter when free-running and trawling, indicating that pollock do not exhibit elevated diving responses when approached by a trawling vessel rather than by a free-running vessel. Although the study indicates that pollock respond to trawling vessels, the nature of the behavioural response cannot be determined with the methods used in this study. Future work should evaluate potential stimuli produced by trawlers to which pollock may react, and should document changes in behaviour that may occur in their presence.

Keywords: acoustic; trawl; vessel avoidance; walleye pollock

Journal Article.  5734 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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