Once again the mystery of the disappearing herring surfaces and everyone is pointing at development as the root cause of their virtual demise. In the Juneau area every few years this issue garners brief headlines and then fades into the background. I've written at least two letters in the past, pointing out facts and raising some pointed questions that always seem to go ignored.
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My family, in particular my grandmother, used to collect herring eggs in the Auke Bay area on hemlock branches, so I recall the herring spawn from those days. It is questionably curious that following the first massive herring seine rodeo, the Juneau area herring disappeared. I believe this first fishery was before the Auke Bay ferry terminal was built.
The herring seine fishery benefits very few Alaskans let alone Americans. In fact, most of the seine permits have been sold to outside interests for very handsome profits.
The questions that should be answered are why does this fishery still exist? Herring are an integral part of fish and whale survival, so what benefit is there to mass seining for a select sector of people for profit? One consolation could be that at least now the entire herring is being used. When the mass seining first began, only the eggs were harvested. The carcasses were taken by barge out in Sitka Sound and dumped.
Where is the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council? Why isn't SEACC's Buck Lindekugel pounding his fists on the government's desk to stop this massive destruction of our ecosystem? It seems to me the destruction of this herring population is far more detrimental to our health than a micro milligram of lead in our water from a mine. Is SEACC staying out of the spotlight until the herring are listed as endangered species so they have another tool to use against development?
What good does it do to list the fish as endangered if you don't stop the endangering? The government should have the backbone to stop the fishery, and fisherman should be the first ones to applaud the stoppage.
William R. Tonsgard
President, Channel Construction