Seawatch: Sitka Sound herring fishery a no-go

Seawatch: Sitka Sound herring fishery a no-go

The Sitka Sound herring fishery appears to be a no-go, which would be only the second time in the fishery’s 43-year history.

The fishery has been on two-hour notice for nearly three weeks, and no fishing has taken place. On top of that, many seiners and tenders have left, no one is volunteering to do test fishing, and the research vessel that was brought in to do that test fishing when the seiners stood down has left.

Last season the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the fishery after harvesting only 3,000 tons of the 13,000-ton quota because the fish were too small to be marketable and the roe content below what processors want. That appears to be the problem again this year.

This year the quota was raised dramatically, to nearly 23,000 tons.

The lack of commercial harvest undoubtedly comes as good news to the Sitka Tribe, which has been protesting the fishery for years.

This year they mounted a publicity campaign and sued ADF&G and the Board of Fisheries for mismanagement of the fishery, saying that the harvest level should be set at 10 percent of the biomass, not the current 20 percent used.

The group says that managers do not give enough consideration to needs of subsistence users, and that herring spawn covers only a fraction of the coastline compared with previous years. They began protesting management more than 20 years ago.

Herring return to spawn for up to seven years, each year growing larger depending upon ocean conditions. It takes fish at least 5-years-old to reach the size and roe maturity that processors want.

In spite of the narrowing window to execute the fishery, ADF&G Area Management Biologist Eric Coondradt told Sitka Public Radio last week that some seiners, tenders and processors are hanging on just in case.

He said that was not necessarily in vain.

“I feel like there’s still time left,” he said. “We still have the ability to find fish, if the fish kind of split up, larger versus smaller fish. But some years they don’t do that. So it’s just kind of a wait and see game.”

The latest a commercial herring fishery has been opened was in 2002, when a second biomass of fish entered Sitka Sound and was targeted between April 12 and April 15.

Cristy Fry can be reached at

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read