The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is set to commence on a two-hour notice starting at 8 a.m. on March 20, as announced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G). This alert system enables the department to open the fishery to commercial fishermen with just two hours’ notice, signaling the potential start of the fishing season at any moment.

For this year, the fishery has been assigned a guideline harvest level of 81,000 tons, marking the highest quota in its history. This figure represents 20% of the estimated mature herring population, or biomass, as projected by ADF&G. Despite this historic quota, factors such as limited market demand and decreased participation in the industry suggest that the actual harvest will not reach the guideline level. In the previous year, the fishery saw a catch of approximately 11,000 tons, significantly below the state’s allowance, capturing only a third of the permissible amount.

A recent press release from Fish and Game highlighted the results of a test set conducted in the Mountain Point area, where the average weight of the herring was recorded at 149 grams, with just over nine percent of the catch consisting of mature roe. Additionally, aerial surveys conducted by ADF&G over the preceding weekend did not detect any spawning activity, although herring were observed near Low Island on March 16.

The ADF&G research vessel, the Kestrel, is scheduled to arrive in Sitka on March 20, further supporting the department’s preparations for the upcoming fishery season. Moreover, ADF&G has planned an industry meeting via Zoom for the evening of March 19, from 5:30 to 7:00, where it will present its management strategy for the 2024 fishery season. This meeting is open to both industry stakeholders and the general public, offering an opportunity for participants to learn more about the fishery’s operational plans and regulations for the year.

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