The Giant Grenadier in Alaska
David M. Clausen
Abstract.—This report summarizes biological, fishery, and survey information on giant grenadier, Albatrossia pectoralis, in Alaskan waters. Catch estimates of giant grenadier in Alaska for the years 1997–2005 have averaged over 16,000 metric tons (mt), and most of this catch has been taken as bycatch in longline fisheries for sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria, and Greenland halibut, Reinhardtius hippoglossoides. The giant grenadier catch is all discarded, and none of the fish survive due to the pressure change when they are brought to the surface. Most of the catch is from the Gulf of Alaska. Data from bottom trawl and longline surveys in Alaska indicate that giant grenadier are extremely abundant in depths 300–1,000 m, and it appears this species is very important ecologically in this environment. Greatest abundance is in the western Gulf of Alaska, eastern Aleutian Islands, and in some areas of the eastern Bering Sea; abundance declines in the eastern Gulf of Alaska. Relative abundance of giant grenadier is much higher off Alaska than off the U.S. West Coast. Fish in the eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands were consistently larger than those in the Gulf of Alaska. Mean size of females was larger in shallower water, and decreased with depth. Females and males appear to have different depth distributions, with females greatly predominating in depths less than 800 m. Although sex composition of giant grenadier caught in the fishery is unknown, nearly all the fishing effort is believed to be in waters less than 800 m, which indicates females are disproportionately harvested. Because of the great abundance of giant grenadier in Alaska and the relatively modest catch, overfishing of giant grenadier does not appear to be a problem at present. However, because information on the population dynamics of giant grenadier is very sparse, and because of the 100% discard mortality, the disproportionate harvest of females, and the general susceptibility of deep-sea fish to overharvest, fishery managers should monitor this species closely if catches increase in the future.