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 realist468@gmail.com

More in News

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, March 27, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Revised travel mandates to begin Friday

Those arriving from outside the state must self-quarantine, but revisions allow for exceptions.

Seafood companies plan to merge parts of their operations

Comapny shares plans to merge parts of their operations.

Homer Farmers Market: Keeping the Market safe

The first Homer Farmers Market of the season in the new COVID-19… Continue reading

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska, is photographed on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough begins reopening

The reopenings are part of phase one of the borough’s approach to reopening responsibly.

Nikiski Fire Station #2, seen here on July 15, 2019 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Homer leads peninsula cities in number of COVID-19 cases

Borough announces three Nikiski Fire personnel have tested positive, 11 crew members quarantined

Paul Banks Elementary School principal honored with statewide recognition

Between advocating for his students to the local Kenai Peninsula Borough School… Continue reading

First day of Homer Farmers Market looks a little different

Homer’s annual Farmers Market inched ahead this summer with a cautious reopening… Continue reading

People hold signs at a protest on Sunday, May 30, 2020, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska, in support of people of color who have been the subject of police violence, including George Floyd, a man who died May 25, 2020, in a police encounter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Locals organize multiple demonstrations on racial injustice

Three separate events to delve into the discussion of racial injustice in… Continue reading

Most Read