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Atka Mackerel Research

hands holding Atka mackerel

Atka mackerel (Pleurogrammus monopterygius) is a schooling, semi-demersal species distributed from the east coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, throughout the Komandorskiye and Aleutian Islands, north to the Pribilof Islands, and eastward through the Gulf of Alaska to Southeast Alaska. Their center of abundance has been in the Aleutian Islands region, particularly from Buldir Island to Sequam Pass.

small atka mackerel

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nesting videos

Atka mackerel begin to recruit to the fishery at age 2 and many survive to 14 years. Fifty percent of the female population is estimated to have reached maturity at 31 cm (about 3.6 years old).  Atka mackerel migrate from the shelf edge to shallow coastal waters (5-30 m) to spawn. Spawning occurs in July -September along the Aleutian Islands. Eggs are adhesive and deposited in rock crevices. These nest are guarded by the males until hatching, which occurs about 40-45 days later. Atka mackerel eat copepods and euphausiids and, in turn, are prey for other fish, seabirds, Steller sea lions, and other marine mammals.

The patterns of the Atka mackerel fishery generally reflect the behavior the the species:

  • the fishery is highly localized and usually occurs in the same few locations each year
  • the schooling semi-demersal nature of the species makes if particularly susceptible to trawl gear fished on the bottom
  • trawling occurs almost exclusively at depths less than 200 m.

Atka mackerel are a very difficult fish to survey because:

  • they do not have a swim bladder, making them poor targets for hydroacoustic surveys
  • they prefer hard, rough and rock bottom which makes sampling with standard survey bottom trawl gear difficult
  • their schooling behavior and patchy distribution make the species susceptible to large variances in catches, which greatly affect area-swept estimates of biomass

During 2013, pollock made up 63.3% of the total groundfish catch off Alaska.  The pollock catch for 2013 was 1,370,130 metric tons (t), up approximately 4.6% from 2012.

The 2013 catch of flatfish, which includes yellowfin sole, rock sole and arrowtooth flounder, was 331,150 t or 15.3% of the total 2013 Alaska groundfish catch, up about 3.2% from 2012.

Pacific cod accounted for 318,870 t or 14.7% of the total 2013 Alaska groundfish catch.  The Pacific cod catch was down about 3.1% from a year earlier.

Other important species (% of total 2013 catch and % change from 2012) are:  Atka mackerel 24,460 t (1.1%, down 50.1%),
sablefish 14,500 t (0.7%, down .8%), and rockfish 59,870 t (2.8%, up 7.9%).


Recent Atka Mackerel Publications, Poster Presentations, & Research Activities

(Source: 2005 North Pacific Groundfish Stock Assessment and Fishery Evaluation Reports for 2006.)


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