The Alaska pollock fishery in the eastern Bering Sea is the largest commercial fishery in the US by volume. Landings in recent years have totaled some 1.2 billion kilograms (2.6 billion pounds)—a value of around $1.4 million dollars.
Sustainable management of the fishery requires scientific, fisheries-independent surveys to set appropriate fishing quotas. NOAA Fisheries traditionally uses research vessels and chartered fishing vessels to perform fisheries surveys, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s ship-based surveys in the region have been canceled. Instead, three Saildrone unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) deployed from Alameda, CA, are sailing to the Bering Sea to perform this important task.