Bait is often a big expense for fishing businesses. Pollock could help cut some of that cost for halibut longliners who fish in the Gulf of Alaska.
Researchers have tested pollock in two projects to see if it might replace pricier chum salmon as halibut bait. Fish biologists use more than 300,000 pounds of chum in their stock surveys each year, costing nearly half a million dollars. The baits are used at more than 1,200 testing stations from Oregon to the Bering Sea.
A pilot study three years ago in the central Gulf and off British Columbia showed promising signs for pollock.
"We looked at several different baits -- our standard chum salmon, pink salmon, pollock and herring. Pollock showed a very strong indication of both better catch rates and lower bycatch rates, so we were very excited about that," said Bruce Leaman, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
In 2012 the bait project was expanded coastwide, and that led to mixed results.