Sitka Tribal Government Disappointed With ADF&G
April 10, 2013
At the time the cooperative was formed, the fishery had harvested approximately 5,600 tons of the 11,549 ton guideline harvest level. The previous opening on March 30, 2013, lasted a little over an hour and resulted in a 175 ton harvest. This opening was closed by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game due to spawned out or "poor quality herring in the area". Subsequent reports from the Alaska Department of Fish & Game stated that "surveys and test sampling failed to identify a sufficient volume of good quality herring to hold a fishery" and that the Department had been unable to "identify an area with sufficient good quality roe herring to prosecute a competitive fishery".
Sitka Tribe of Alaska said all the observations made by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game staff were indicators that the 2013 spawning season for the Sitka Sound herring stock was at an end and that no commercially viable herring were available to be caught. What remained were a mix of pre spawn and spawned out herring resulting in an unmarketable composite said Sitka Tribe.
According to a press release from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the 2012 Sitka Sound Sac Roe Fishery season closed with 55.9 nm of spawn being recorded by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Using the two year average spawn deposition, fishery managers estimated the post season biomass to be 99,000 tons. Reduced spawn deposition recorded during post season surveys combined with age composition data resulted in an actual biomass of 68,440 tons, or 30,000 tons less than the post season estimate by fishery managers said the Sitka Tribe in a press statement. Multiplying the actual 2012 spawn deposition density (instead of the 10 year average) by current 44 nw of spawn combined with the 5,600 tons harvest by commercial fishers results in a spawning biomass of 59,470 tons, which is well short of the 2013 predicted biomass of 74,694 said Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Although there is the possibility that additional spawning may occur, there are no guarantees that this will happen said Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
Early responses from subsistence harvesters indicate there is a big likelihood that subsistence needs have not been met this year according to Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Adequate spawn deposition to provide for subsistence needs occurred in a very small position of the 44 nm of recorded spawn. The remaining miles of spawn had inadequate or minuscule spawn deposition said the Sitka Tribal Government.
Sitka Tribe of Alaska said they are dismayed at the reckless action taken by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to approve a cooperative fishery for the entire Sitka Sound Sac Roe Fishery management area on April 3rd. The Tribe said such an action by the Department put the unmarketable herring remaining in the area at risk of direct or delayed mortality caused by catch and release practices. Considering, said the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, that no scientific data is collected and analyzed in season to manage for conservation concerns, and that data collected in season to manage the fishery indicated the projected biomass did not full materialize again this year, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game should have closed the fishery instead of expanding fishing efforts.
The Sitka Tribal Government said the actions of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show once again that meeting the wants of the commercial industry and the pallets of foreign consumers out-weights the needs of other Alaskan user groups and the ecosystem. This is a resource that belongs to all Alaskans and should be managed as such said the Sitka Tribe of Alaska in a press statement.
On April 3rd, the fishery was opened by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game under a cooperative agreement among permit holders and the agreement initially allowed up to 480 tons of herring to be harvested with additional harvests based on the results of this initial harvest allotment. The Sitka Sound herring sac roe regulatory district, which includes the waters of Salisbury Sound south of the latitude of Point Kakul, Sitka Sound and contiguous waters and western Baranof Island south to Aspid Cape was opened under this agreement from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on the 3rd.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, at the close of the fishery at 6:00 p.m., only 250 tons of roe quality herring was harvested. Several sets made in locations south of Sitka indicated a large presence of small herring. With little progress made in harvesting good quality herring, the presence of recruit size herring, and no indication of a substantial biomass of additional quality roe herring in the area, the Department announced the season closure on the VHF radio at 6:00 p.m., April 3.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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