Editor's Note: This is part of our "Thanks for all the fish" series, which looks into the billion-dollar commercial fishing industry that has defined and sustained Seattle since the city's founding.
It sounds too good to be true: There are so many fish that Seattle-based boats haul in more than a million metric tons of them every year without depleting the population. "It still boggles my mind how much is a million tons of fish," says David Fluharty, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. "To actually catch that much protein . . ."
The fish is the unfortunately-named walleye pollock. One probably won't see walleye pollock — caught in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska by vessels dragging midwater trawls — on a bed of ice beside the ahi and Copper River king in a fish store display case. But one may well have eaten it in the form of fish sticks or pre-breaded fillets or, perhaps, McDonald's fish sandwiches.
By volume, Alaskan pollock support the world's largest food fishery. All by itself, the Alaska fishery represents about 1 out of every 100 pounds of fish from the entire world's oceans.