Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



Finally Balance In The Herring Debate
by Ron Porter


April 09, 2004

Dear Reader:

Thanks to Scott McAllister's letter defending ADF&G's stock assessment and abundance based management, there is finally balance in the highly publicized herring debate. As a lifetime resident of SE Alaska and commercial herring fisherman, I want to throw in my two cents worth by clarifying a few points made in today's letters by Andy Rauwolf and John Harrington.

Andy Rauwolf's characterization of events concerning the lower Lynn Canal herring stocks is accurate but not the whole story. Yes, there used to be a commercial fishery there, and yes, spawn surveys in recent years have not produced results indicating the threshold biomass necessary for a fishery. However, the herring are not gone from the waters surrounding Juneau. In fact, it is common knowledge that herring are abundant around Juneau and the area is heavily used by whales, sea lions and king salmon. Whale watching and king salmon fishing are a huge part of the tour industry in Juneau and absolutely nobody is up in arms about the lack of herring or any of the rest. By all reports, there are plenty of herring and king salmon in the Juneau area and Nature is in balance and working there as well as it is here in Ketchikan.

However there is a mystery. It is common knowledge among Juneau herring watchers (ADF&G staff and those who transit those waters watching for signs of herring) that the observed biomass far exceeds the observed spawn in lower Lynn Canal. This is a mystery that Mother Nature holds close and over time herring fishermen have deferred to the best judgment of ADF&G. Regardless of the visible abundance of herring, as long as spawn and ASA data do not indicate enough herring for a fishery threshold, it is best to wait before having a fishery again.

As for John Harrington's assertion that Mr. McAllister was misleading readers in his defense of ADF&G's science, and that mismanagement of herring stocks is what has lead to closed herring fisheries in many places in SE Alaska, it is John who has mislead the readers. The facts show that of the 20 places John mentioned, two will have herring harvests in 2004, Tenakee Inlet and Seymour Canal. Five others, Port Houghton, Kah Shakes, Cat Island, Zimovia Straits and Lynn Canal, (John missed Lisianski Straits) currently have harvest management plans that will provide for fisheries as stocks return to threshold levels of abundance. Of these four, all are places with sporadic fishing histories and there is nothing alarming about these places not currently having fisheries.

This leaves 13 of John's places where there are no longer herring fisheries and none of these currently have harvest management plans in regulation. These have always been and always will be places of marginal stocks and how fortunate we are that the state does not provide for fisheries in these places. A fishery in Kasaan Bay would be like having a sockeye fishery in Ward Cove just because there are a few sockeye that swim up Ward Lake. Of course there is no commercial fishing for sockeye in Ward Cove, it has a marginal stock of sockeye as does Kasaan have a marginal stock of herring.

The final impression John leaves with readers is the impression that every bay in SE Alaska once was a full bucket of herring and was wiped out by commercial fishing. This is just not true. Sure, there were landings throughout history from many locations of marginal abundance, these harvests occurred under retired management regimes and we can forget about those future herring fisheries in Angoon, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Tokeen, Idaho Inlet, Port Pybus, Kasaan Bay and the likes. Unless Nature takes an unprecedemted turn for the best and mass spawns begin to occur in these locations, there will be no compelling reason to provide for commercial harvest of these resources.

The bottom line is that the "abundance based management" of ADF&G is working, and this is proven up over time. Mother Nature is well and alive under our current management practices and there is no science to the contrary.

Ron Porter
Ketchikan, AK - USA


Related Viewpoints:

RE: "Extinction" of a herring stock not the inevitable outcome by Andy Rauwolf - Ketchikan, AK - USA

Defending the indefensible by John Harrington - Ketchikan, AK - USA

"Extinction" of a herring stock not the inevitable outcome by Scott McAllister - Juneau, AK - USA



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


Post a Comment -------View Comments

Submit an Opinion - Letter

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska