Finally Balance In The Herring
by Ron Porter
April 09, 2004
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
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.
Ketchikan, AK - USA
RE: "Extinction" of a herring
stock not the inevitable outcome
by Andy Rauwolf - Ketchikan, AK - USA
Defending the indefensible by John Harrington - Ketchikan, AK
"Extinction" of a herring
stock not the inevitable outcome
by Scott McAllister - Juneau, AK - USA
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