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Sitka sac roe fishery alloted 29,008 tons for 2012

Tribe says harvest could depress herring stocks, per-ton prices

Posted: December 26, 2011 - 1:03am

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game 2012 Sitka sac roe guideline harvest could be the largest on record. It amounts to approximately 82 pounds per Alaskan, millions of pounds larger than 2011.

Approximately 18,615 tons of herring were harvested in commercial sac roe herring fisheries conducted in Southeast Alaska during 2010, according to ADF&G Division of Commercial Fisheries. The Division anticipates approximately 21,601 tons in 2011.

The 2012 Harvest Limit is based on a 20 percent harvest rate of the forecast biomass of 145,042 tons of mature herring. The 2011 commercial sac roe herring harvest was set at 19,430 tons.

Deckboss blogger Wesley Loy summed up his assessment of 2012’s “dazzling herring forecast.”

“In a word, biblical,” Loy said.

The title of largest on record, however, only counts if only the years back to the 1960s are taken into account, said Jeff Feldpausch, Resource Protection Director and spokesman for Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

Feldpausch said there is a “misconception that the Sitka Sound herring stock biomass is at historic levels. If the stock biomass assessment conducted by ADF&G is correct, then the stock would only be at a record level since the state began managing the fishery in the 1960s. Historic records, archeological evidence and Traditional Ecological Knowledge show that herring were abundant throughout Southeast Alaska as late as the early 1900s.”

Though not historically a record, Feldpausch said the 2012 guideline is too large.

According to Feldpausch, ADF&G’s 2012 guidelines would glut the market causing a lower per-pound price.

Lowering the guideline, Feldpausch said, would assist three groups of harvesters. Commercial harvesters would benefit through increased prices and lower operating expenses, the subsistence harvesters through increased subsistence opportunities and feral predators, which rely on herring as prey.

If subsistence needs are not being met, guideline harvest limits should not be raised, Feldpausch said. Subsistence herring egg harvester surveys from 2002 to 2010 showed three years where sac roe subsistence harvest failed to meet need.

The forecast and GHL for the 2012 fishery will be finalized using average weight-at-age from sampling of the winter test fishery, to be conducted during the January 2012. The final forecast will be announced in late February.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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