Sitka’s commercial herring fleet should expect to catch significantly fewer fish this spring. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which released its preliminary harvest level for the 2015 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery Friday.
The preliminary guideline harvest level is 8,712 tons; that’s the lowest its been since 2003 and about half of last year’s target of 16,333 tons. The herring fleet brought in 16,957 tons last year, exceeding the target and making that harvest one of the largest ever.
Fish and Game expects 44,237 tons of herring to spawn in and around Sitka Sound. That’s the lowest forecast in a decade, and well below the past several years when forecasts have consistently been above 70,000 tons.
The department forecast a biomass of 81,663 tons for last year. Sampling and aerial surveys suggest the actual population was 68,399 tons.
Fish and Game will take samples again in late January or early February; the final harvest level will be announced by early March when the sac roe herring fishery usually opens.